Todd Shupe Encouraged By U.S. Numbers Of Faithful Compared To European Decline

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It doesn’t take a prolonged look around to realize that church attendance is down and pews are a bit barren from time to time. A quick canvass of friends and co-workers will similarly tell you that overall church attendance has reached discouraging numbers. According to an Oct. 17, 2017 article from National Review magazine, a new book and recently-released study explores this trend as it has been unfolding in Europe. According to Todd Shupe, who has worked tirelessly to further Christian organizations and outreach efforts, it would behoove us to recommitting ourselves to The Great Commission.

First, the study: The National Center for Social Research found that 62 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 in England identify as having no religion. In Scotland, the study found that church attendance has dropped by 50 percent in the past three years and just three percent of English people between the ages of 18 and 24 identify as Anglican. Moving on to the book, “The Strange Death of Europe,” author Douglas Murray explores societal and cultural changes on the continent in his 2017 publication. According to Murray, this is attributed to, in part, immigration and the new norms that newcomers bring with them. Given the above statistics, it’s difficult to stay with a straight face that the modern church of any denomination is doing well.

To Todd Shupe, a man of unshakable faith and former professor with LSU, America is no stranger to spotty attendance on Sunday mornings.  While he doesn’t like what the study and book have to say, recent stats out of America paint a more encouraging picture. According to an in-depth Pew Research Center study from 2014, 63 percent of 35,071 respondents contacted by Pew said they had an “absolutely certain” belief in God. Compare that to a mere nine percent who felt the opposite and it’s clear that we’re doing something right on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Some readers may wonder why trusting a higher power so important? To Todd Shupe, the moral foundations that are built through religion also brings with it a sense that something greater than us is in control. If we can learn to communicate with God and see His work on a daily basis, then those who’ve stopped making the weekly pilgrimage to church might remember why we go in the first place: To meet with fellow Christians and demonstrate your obedience to God above all others.

Todd Shupe’s Take On Race Relations And The Bible Interpretations

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We have had problems in this country with race relations for many years. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark civil rights and federal labor law in the United States, which outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In recent years, untold news reports have documented the civil unrest in New York City, Los Angeles, Ferguson, Missouri; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia and numerous other cities across our country. This unrest is often associated with police brutality against young black men, explains Todd Shupe.

What’s more, such instances have occurred repeatedly with seemingly no plan to curb them. If we turn to the Bible, however, it’s clear that such divisions were never intended by our creator. In this article, Todd Shupe explains the way we should treat each other as evidenced by scripture.

“Any time one human dehumanizes another through racism, sexism, ageism, religion or more, it breaks my heart,” Christian organization volunteer Todd Shupe said recently. “There is truly one race of people — the human race. Throughout history, the enemy has used his weapons of fear, jealously and greed to develop hatred and mistrust of the races.”

St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body.” Acts 17:26 tells us, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth.” In other translations, the wording is “from one blood.”

We are all children of God and we all seek to enter His kingdom through the narrow gate, Todd Shupe says. We are all commanded to love and respect one another. A Christian seeks to be a disciple and a disciple is known by their actions.  “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Be blessed!

Todd Shupe Explains The True Meaning Of Salvation

todd shupeI had heard the term salvation for years, but was not entirely clear of its meaning. I have come to understand that salvation is “deliverance from danger or suffering.” To save is to deliver or protect. The word carries the idea of victory, health or preservation. Sometimes, the Bible uses the words “saved” or “salvation” to refer to temporal, physical deliverance — such as St. Paul’s deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19).

“Salvation is God’s gracious gift to us,” says Christian organization volunteer Todd Shupe.

St. Paul describes salvation in Romans 3:23-24: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

“So what is it then to be justified,” asks Todd Shupe. “This means God treats us as if we were righteous. It is imperative that we remember that our righteousness comes from our faith in God and not our obedience to the Law (Philippians 3:9).”

Moreover, St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8, “it’s by His grace.” It has nothing to do with me; we are saved by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Redemption is simply a ransom that’s been paid for our sin and all of this is His free gift to us. Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-26). We are saved from “wrath,” that is, from God’s judgment of sin (Romans 5:91 Thessalonians 5:9). Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23), explains Todd Shupe. Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin.

We are saved by faith. First, we must hear the gospel — the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe — fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19) and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-1013). Then as part of the Body of Christ, Todd Shupe states that we must serve. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26) so I encourage you to accept this free gift and life everlasting. Stay in the Word and the Word will stay in you! Be blessed.

Grace Upon Grace: An Exploration Of God’s Love And How To Receive It

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We are created with a deep need to be loved. This is Todd Shupe’s firm belief. What’s more, he says that there are two radically different kinds of love: conditional and unconditional. Conditional love involves bargaining and there are conditions that we must meet in order to receive love from others. Such conditional living is exhausting, involving a treadmill of constant doing in order to earn and maintain love.

Unconditional love is radically different, involving a conversion of our motives. The Christian dynamic is “not that we loved God, but that he loved us,” (1 John 4:10). Unconditional love is a gift in which the initiative is God’s — and not ours. Human love always expects something in return, yet God’s love does not. Grace is the name for God’s incredible love. God loves us because of who God is; not because of who we are or what we have done.

There is nothing we can do to earn or lose God’s grace, says Christian organization volunteer and former LSU professor Todd Shupe. It is freely given. In fact, God has given us an abundance of grace. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” (John 1:16). This grace is so large that “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” (Romans 8:35-39).  According to Todd Shupe, this is astonishing and I encourage you to pause and think about what you have just read.

Now that we have received God’s grace, what is our response?  First, never let your hearts be troubled.  Be confident and courageous and know that God’s favor is upon you. Second, extend grace to others. A few examples are teaching Sunday school, be involved in Christian service, give a full tithe to your church, pray for your pastor and the church, witness your faith and be engaged in the Bible daily and show compassion to the hungry.

According to Todd Shupe, who previously at LSU instructed wood science operations, whenever you help the poor, incarcerated, homeless, and marginalized, you are helping our Lord. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,’” (Matthew 25:40). Go with the knowledge and confidence that God’s grace is forever upon you. Be blessed.

Self-Control Can Vanquish Weakness In Trying Times

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By Todd Shupe

The Bible teaches us that self-control is essential to living a Christian life. We must exercise our self-control or we become controlled by our weakness. Whether it is food, alcohol, drugs or pornography, the enemy knows our weakness better than we do and will encourage us to go to it rather than to God in times of need. Todd Shupe says that our lives can soon be dominated by our weakness and we are living completely in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. Self-control is the very essence of “dying to self” and living in righteousness with God. Our righteousness cannot and will not ever come from ourselves, but only as a means of grace from God as a result of totally surrendering ourselves to His will and becoming His disciple.

If you are struggling with self-control, former LSU professor Todd Shupe encourages you to first begin with prayer and ask God for His help. Then, go into the Bible and study and memorize some particular verses that speak to you and your situation. My “go to” verse when my patience is growing thin is Proverbs 29:11. “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” We must remember that all wisdom comes from God. So how does one obtain wisdom? James 1:5 tells us that “if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

The exercise of self-control will not only keep us away from our temptations, but will allow us to be a powerful witness for God. You may ask, “How can I be a good witness for God by exercising self-control?” The best witness is one who demonstrates his faith with his actions. St. Francis of Assisi encouraged people to speak the gospel wherever they go and use words when necessary.

Self-control will allow you to remain silent when verbally attacked. It will allow you to respond with love when confronted with hate. Self-control will also keep you pure when you are alone.  Self-control will also keep you sane in times of great adversity such as a flooded home, divorce or loss of a family member. We freely and willingly yield control of ourselves to God. Instead of worrying about what will happen, former LSU professor Todd Shupe suggests that we stand steadfast in His promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Self-control does not mean that we are to go it alone. Todd Shupe knows that life is tough and we need fellow Christians for the journey. We need accountability groups that are small, honest and safe so we can be vulnerable and encouraging to each other. Christ encouraged us to come to Him with our burdens and He will give us rest. Read Matthew 11 and then fasten your yoke to a friend.

Benefits of Giving Back To The Church Are Many, Todd Shupe Implores The Faithful

At any church, “giving” is one of the more sensitive topics for many that is also very important to discuss. That’s because “giving” is fundamentally essential for the existence and the growth of the local church and the church universal. We often associate giving with money. Although money is important, giving involves more than money. According to Todd Shupe, a disciple will give of their financial resources, time and talents. Recent studies show that tithers make up only 10 to 25 percent of a normal congregation. Only 5 percent of the U.S. tithes, with 80 percent of Americans only giving 2 percent of their income. Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while they gave at a 3.3 percent rate during the Great Depression.

Finances:
According to Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, most Christians are familiar with the 10 percent tithe. “Make an offering of 10 percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year,” Deuteronomy 14:22-26. First, it is important to stop here and acknowledge that God does not need our money. However, God desires our hearts and our commitment to Him. A full tithe is a sign of trust and commitment and helps to support and advance the local church and its missions.

“Our financial resources are a blessing from God and our tithe is returning a small portion to God what we have received from God,” Todd Shupe said recently. “Stewardship is much more than financial giving to the church. It is also giving our time, talents, and witness.”

Time:
Time is a gift of God. How we choose to use it is a matter of discernment and stewardship. Some people lead lives of quiet desperation, always over-extending themselves to the point of exhaustion while others sit around in apathetic boredom. Some spend all their hours serving the needs of others at the expense of their own, while others live only for themselves. As Christian stewards, we try to manage time wisely and in a balanced way. As such, we give our time gladly to family and friends, to strangers, to the community, the church and to ourselves.

Talents:
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the three servants who received different amounts of money to manage while the master was away? We’ve each received from God distinctive gifts and talents. Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, believes how we develop and use these talents is a matter of stewardship. Like two of the servants in Jesus’ story, we can invest them wisely — or like the third, out of fear we can hide them (Matthew 25:14-30).

Witness:
God desires that we serve as His witness wherever we go. For some, this may be mission trips or full time missionaries. For others, it may be as St. Francis of Assisi said, to “speak the gospel wherever you go and use words when necessary.” Todd Shupe believes that the best witness is through your actions – service to others.

Selected Scripture on Giving

1. The Lord Jesus expects and requires us to give: Jesus said to His disciples, “When you give,” not “if you give” (Matthew 6:2). Hence, Christian giving is not optional, but rather essential. We often hear folks say, “In the Old Testament they had to give, but not in the New — now we only give if we want to.” This is clearly incorrect. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
2. The Lord Jesus wants us to give for the right reasons: Jesus warned His disciples not to give for the sake of being admired by men. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them,” He said (Matthew 6:1). When we give, we must be careful to examine our motives. We ought to give for the glory of God and the good of His people. We must desire His approval of our giving, rather than the praise and admiration of people.
3. The Lord Jesus wants us to practice benevolent or charitable giving: Jesus said, “When you give to the poor…” (Matthew 6:2-3). Jesus is specifically teaching about “alms” in this passage: aid, charity or benevolent offerings for the needy.
4. The Lord Jesus reminds us that our giving is ultimately to the all-seeing heavenly Father: Jesus said, “When you give…; your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you,” (Matthew 6:3-4). When we give, we are not simply adding to the Church budget, we are giving back to God what came from God.
5. The Bible teaches that Christian giving is an act of worship: In connection with the previous point, we see this truth stressed in another way in Paul’s word’s “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save,” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Paul here teaches the Corinthians that their taking up of the collection is an act of worship which is to be a part of their regular Lord’s Day worship. When we put our money in the plate, we are worshiping Almighty God in accordance with His Word. Paul is speaking here of a “collection for the saints.” This is giving by the Church to the Church for the Church.
In summary, the Bible teaches that Christian giving ought to be cheerful giving. As Paul says “God loves a cheerful giver.” This is a truly amazing assertion. Paul assures us here that the Lord takes a special delight in those who are joyful, energetic, merry givers God says in Malachi 3:10: “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” This is the only occasion in which God asks us to test him. In fact, after Jesus was baptized, the Enemy tempted him and He answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Clearly, we have not come close to reaching our potential for giving. Won’t you pray that we will give as we ought? That we will give for the right motives? That we will give joyously? And that we will give extravagantly.

Understanding Love Through Reading from the Scripture

Perhaps the most common scripture that is read at a wedding is from 1 Corinthians 13. This is beautiful scripture that defines what is — and what is not — love and it is a favorite of Todd Shupe.

Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, encourages you to read this passage and substitute your name for “love.” Our goal in life should be to achieve the characteristics that are described in this scripture. God is love and if we want to be closer to God, we must show His love to the world.

“13:1 through 13:3 are very close to my heart. I think far too often we focus on learning and understanding the Bible and doing good deeds to try to earn favor with God,” Todd Shupe said, adding, “the most important thing we can do once we have accepted the love of Christ is to show the love of Christ to others. This love starts with our spouse and family and works outward to the world in both word and deed.”

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
13:3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant.
13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
13:6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
13:13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Love is also making time for those you love. Love is listening, not just hearing. Love is crying together and rejoicing together. Love is when two become one body and love each other as Christ loved His church. Todd Shupe, a retired LSU professor, encourages you to tell your loved ones that you love them and reinforce it with your actions.

Todd Shupe Shares His Thoughts on Marriage

At almost every marriage ceremony that Todd Shupe has attended, the words “What God has put together, let no man separate,” are often spoken by the pastor or person conducting the ceremony. Rings are also exchanged by the happy couple. The rings are essentially a circle which has no beginning or end and is therefore a symbol of infinity. It is endless and eternal — just the way love should be. The wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This is because the vein in this finger was believed to lead directly to the wearer’s heart.

According to Todd Shupe, marriage is a holy sacrament and a three-way covenant between the husband, wife and God. However, the National Survey of Family Growth and PolitiFact.com estimated that the lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is between 40 and 50 percent. A key factor that affects rates of divorce is the importance of religion to the couple. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:24-27 to build our house on the rock. Remember, your first responsibility is to love God, then your spouse and then your children. Not even your own children should come between a married couple.

Below are five steps for a healthy marriage.

1) Start with God: Both members of the couple should accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior and make Him their main priority. God is love and a loving marriage must include God. Remember, we follow God; God does not follow us.

2) Pray for and with each other: Todd Shupe encourages you to pray each day for God’s blessings to be poured out abundantly on your spouse. Pray for protection and wisdom for them. Pray that their words, actions and thoughts that day will bring glory to Him. Also, pray with your spouse; this shows each other that you want to seek His face and understand His will and are putting Him first. You will also learn the particular concerns of your spouse and this will help you to develop your prayers for your spouse in a more focused manner.

3) Husbands, honor your wives: Husbands should treat their wives with honor and respect. Treat your wife as you would want your mother, daughter or sister to be treated. Honor her with your words and actions. Loving words are nice, but loving actions mean more. You don’t need to buy expensive jewelry to accomplish this. You do need to study your wife and find out what she enjoys and try to provide it. The more she observes you trying to please her, the more she will want to please you. So, if you attend an opera show with her, she will be much more likely to attend a football game with you. Don’t push it; let the Holy Spirit work on her. According to Todd Shupe, a pertinent scripture in this regard is Ephesians 5:25. It reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

4) Become one body: Genesis tells us that a man will leave his parents to join his wife and become one body with her. This means that the two shall cease to have separate lives and have one life together. If your spouse is unhappy, then that means half of you is unhappy and you need to address it.

5) Forgiveness: Couples will always disagree and argue. However, it is essential that we are slow to anger and quick to forgive. If we do not forgive others for their sins, then how can we expect God to forgive us for our sins (Matthew 6:15). We all make mistakes and married couples will inevitably disappoint and anger each other, but we must offer each other grace and forgiveness. We may be hesitant to offer forgiveness for a “repeat offense,” but don’t we seek God’s forgiveness for our repeated sins? Todd Shupe believes that when you let go of bitterness and offer forgiveness, you are truly freeing yourself.

God clearly does not want man to live alone. He gave Adam a partner to live with him. In the same way, God will — or has — given you a partner. I encourage you to love, honor and forgive your spouse and make God the focal point of your marriage. May God richly bless you, your spouse and your marriage!

Four Ways To Turn Father’s Day Into A Celebration Of The Selfless Service Men Do Daily

While we’d rather see more than one day per year dedicated to recognizing the fathers in all our lives, we’ll take one and seize upon it for now.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, now’s the time to start planning the best ways to mark the occasion. From family outings to intimate sit-downs with like-minded family and friends, Father’s Day is a chance to show respect, appreciation and utmost gratitude for the sacrifices our fathers have made throughout their lives and ours to better our quality of living. Todd Shupe — a member of Gulf South Men, a Christian men’s organization — is a firm believer in Father’s Day. That’s because it can be used for purposes beyond a card in the mail or a nice dinner.  For more information on Gulf South Men, click here.

With that in mind, here are four ways to spend the upcoming holiday thanks to suggestions from the Charlotte, North Carolina-based arm of Band of Brothers. For more information on that organization, click here. For ways to turn this upcoming Sunday into a celebration of men everywhere, keep reading.

 

– Angels in the Outfield: What says “spring has arrived” more than an afternoon at a baseball game? If sports aren’t your thing but you still want to spend time outdoors with your family, Todd Shupe suggests a nature walk, day at the beach or visit to an animal sanctuary.

 

– Leading by Example: Reach out to your congregation and see if they will allow you to use the church for an educational seminar on the modern role of a father. Invite the community at large and be surprised at how much new information and insight into other’s lives that you’ll walk away with.

 

– Sunday Service: When it comes time to attend church on Father’s Day, those in the position to preach should take their role to heart and spread a message that will reach all men – not just fathers. Encourage a handful of men in the congregation to share stories of success through faith. You can also distribute a survey to men in attendance to get a better idea of issues they face today. That survey can then be used by your church’s leadership team to shape fall programming in hopes of reaching more with resonating messages. St. Andrews United Methodist in Baton Rouge, La., has an United Methodist Men Sunday that occurs on or near Father’s Day.  The service is lead by the men of the church and they select a special guest speaker to bring a powerful message of God’s love and grace.

– Rest and Relaxation: After church, head outdoors for a family picnic or to a site with recreational options for you and the family to consider. It’s both a team-building exercise and quality time well spent with loved ones.