How Did You Like Your Heart Attack?

todd shupe

How Did You Like Your Heart Attack?

todd shupe

Remember today what you have learned about the LORD through your experiences with Him” (Deuteronomy 11:2 GNT).

 

There is certainly nothing to like or funny about a heart attack.  You know somebody is serious when they say, “I am serious as a heart attack.” 

In the book See You at the House by Bob Benson, the author details a conversation about his friend who had a heart attack.  The prognosis was grim for a while but ultimately his friend recovered. Months later Bob asked him a rather odd question. “Well, how did you like your heart attack?”  His friend responded, It scared me to death, almost.”  Bob asked, “Would you do it again?” “No!,” his friend said.  “Would you recommend it?” Bob asked.  “Definitely not,” said his friend. 

Now, the conversation begins to turn.  Bob said, “Does your life mean more to you now than it did before?”  “Well, yeah” was the response.  Bob continued, “You and your wife always had a beautiful marriage, but are you closer now more than ever?” Yes,” said his friend.  Bob probed deeper and asked, “Do you have a new compassion for people—a deeper understanding and sympathy?” “Yes, I do.”  “Do you know the Lord in richer fellowship than you’d ever realized?”  “Yes.”  And then Bob said, “So how did you like your heart attack?”

God is with us in the storms of life, including heart attacks, and often uses these situations as a learning opportunity for us.  Deuteronomy 11:2 reads, “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with Him.”  Sometimes it takes a heart attack or similar event for God to get our attention.  At this point, it is up to us to us to respond. 

Our response will ultimately increase or decrease our faith in God.  Scripture speaks to the relationship between trials and faith.  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:6-8).

We can choose to consider it all joy (James 1:2-4) because we know we have final victory over sin and death and glory and eternity await.  We can partner with God in times of trials to make us into the kinds of people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28–29). I believe that our good, compassionate God longs for all of us to be on a formational journey in Christian perfection to be more Christ-like and pain provides a unique “on-ramp” to expedite the journey.

God reveals Himself to us through various means.  Sadly, many men do not recognize God’s grace until they have their “heart attack” moment.  We can certainly experience God’s presence while in church or reading the Bible.  However, His presence transcends any sort of limits or preconceptions that we might have.  I sense His presence in babies, nature, and random acts of kindness.  The earth is God’s canvas.  The Psalmist expresses it beautifully in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  If you want to see proof of God and see evidence of His work, look out the window or better yet go for a walk.

Don’t wait for your heart attack to begin living life!

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for pursuing us even when we fail to pursue you.  Help us to see first your kingdom and your righteousness.  Amen. 

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Embrace Your Pain

todd shupe

Embrace Your Pain

todd shupe

I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death” (Psalm 88:3 NIV).

 

We have all experienced pain and loss.  Yours may be different from mine but all pain is real and raw.  I think it is hard for most of us to consider pain as pure joy.  Scripture sets a high standard for us in this regard.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

We are who we are today based on (1) what we have experienced, which certainly includes our pain and (2) how have we resolved our pain.  The second item is particularly important because that is where we begin to see differences between people.   For some, the pain remains unresolved and perhaps is numbed by drugs and alcohol.  Maybe its just tucked away and not talked about but lingers.  Pain often becomes a defining moment in the life of a Christian.  It will either bring you closer to God or pull you away. 

We begin to gain a better understanding of our pain when we realize that our time on earth is so very brief but so essential to prepare and equip us for eternal life.  Our understanding deepens when we consider the nature of eternal life.  This is the life that God intended for us to have before sin entered the world.  When we are finally healed and see the Face of our Lord, there is no pain, sorrow, or death.  Romans 8:18 tells us of the glory that awaits us in eternal life.  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

A person’s perspective in times of trial is paramount in enduring hardships. For me, I reflect upon the words of 2 Corinthians 4:18. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  We see problems.  We live in a fallen world.  Healing begins when we turn away from the pain, which is temporary, and toward our Father, who is eternal. 

Our response to pain will ultimately increase or decrease our faith in God.  Scripture speaks to the relationship between trials and faith.  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:6-8).  Use your pain to draw closer to God with prayer, service, and worship and realize that your pain can become your ministry.

We can choose to respond joyfully because we know we have final victory over pain because of His victory.  We can choose to partner with God in times of trials to make us into the kinds of people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28–29). I believe that our good, compassionate God longs for all of us to be on a formational journey in Christian perfection to be more Christ-like and pain provides a unique “on-ramp” to expedite the journey.

Jesus was often called Teacher and all teachers know that our circumstances influence our ability to learn. A “teachable moment” is an event or experience which presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life.  Pain can create a teachable moment.  We can not control the pain, but we can control our response to the teachable moment it creates.

On my better days, I’m learning that pain is almost always an invitation.  The right next step for all of us is to accept the invitation and embrace the pain because it is nothing compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven. 

Prayer:  Dear God:  We thank you for breathing life into us.  You told us that in this life we will have hardships but to take heart because You have overcome the world.  Help us to live as Easter people that are in preparation for eternal life.  Help us to consider it all pure joy.  Help us to store up our treasure in heaven.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men

todd shupe

Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men

todd shupe

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15 NIV).

  

I have enjoyed reading the book, “Twelve Ordinary Men” by John MacArthur.   Each chapter focused on a different disciple and blessed me with new insight to each of these men.  I was particularly drawn to the chapter about John, the Apostle of Love.  Throughout our lives we all find ourselves on different sides of the truth and love issue.  Sometimes we want justice and sometimes we want mercy. Most of us settle on the side that best suits our purpose for the particular issue at the particular time. 

However, it is a false choice to choose between truth and love.  For a Christian that is growing in sanctification, the two go together.  According to the book, “Zeal for the truth must be balanced by love for people.  Truth without love has no decency, its brutality.  On the other hand, love without truth has no character its just hypocrisy.” 

Today many people are imbalanced in the matter of truth/love.  Love is often given higher priority over truth.  MacArthur writes, “Some are merely ignorant; others are deceived; still others simply do not care about what is true.”  The author states that what they are left with is “error, clothed in a shallow, tolerant sentimentality.”  This is not true love because there is a lack of truth.  “Therefore, even the love they speak of is a tainted love.”  Real love “does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices I the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

A key point in the book is the concept of equality of the two virtues.  “The truly godly person must cultivate both virtues in equal proportions.  If you could wish for anything in your sanctification, wish for that.  If you pursue anything in the spiritual realm, pursue a perfect balance of truth and love.  Know the truth and uphold it in love.”  To know truth and love is to know Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus reveals Himself as truth by stating, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  John clearly understood the truth and love nature of Jesus when he wrote in 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

The author points to Ephesians 4 in which the apostle Paul describes the balance of truth and love as the very pinnacle of spiritual maturity.  Ephesians 4:15 teaches, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Sanctification is essential to living out this Scripture.  According to MacArthur, “Manifesting both truth and love is possible only for the mature believer who has grown into the measure of the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ.” 

We know the truth when we know Christ.  His Word is the truth.  We know true love when we love as Christ loves, unconditionally.  The greatest truth is love and truth and love are inseparable.  They are intimately related in the Great Commandment which is the true Word of God (Matthew 22:37-40).

This book provides the reader with a better understanding of Jesus, His disciples, and yourself.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the twelve apostles of Jesus, and their acts to start Your church.  Please help us to continue to advance Your kingdom on earth.  Amen.

 

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Can We Really Be Thankful in All Circumstances?

todd shupe

Can We Really Be Thankful in All Circumstances?

todd shupe

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV).

 

One of the most difficult concepts for all Christians is to be thankful in all circumstances.  I think all of us have lifted prayers of supplication during times of great adversity.  As we prayed, we were probably nervous, angry, or perhaps scared.  We certainly were not thankful. 

Prayer must be grounded with gratitude, confidence, and humility.  We express gratitude when we thank God for what He has already done.  This concept is well stated in Philippians 4:6.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

The Bible teaches, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  I think many people are waiting on God to take action on their prayers but God is perhaps waiting on them to show some sincere gratitude.  Everything we have is from God.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). 

Our confidence in prayer is not based on self-confidence but rather our confidence in the Father and His promises to us.  “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” (Ephesians 3:12).

Last but not least is humility.  I know God is not pleased with the prevalent attitude of entitlement.  Humility is essential to prayer.  One of my favorite promises of Scripture is in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and speaks to the importance of humility. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances. Notice it does not say to give thanks for all circumstances. There is a big difference. There are a lot of things in life you should not be thankful for. You should never be thankful for evil. In fact, we are called to hate evil. 

The Bible says to give thanks in every circumstance, not for, because God can bring good even out of bad things.  This is the promise of Romans 8:28 which gives us hope during bad times.  “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.”

There is no doubt that there is evil in this world.  We should never be grateful for evil or tragic circumstances.  We can be grateful that evil will not win.  God can and will turn bad into good in His own way and in His own time.  Our God has already established final victory over sin.  We will eventually be healed, and His victory shall be ours as well.  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

When bad things happen, don’t ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Instead, ask, “God, what do you want me to learn from this?”  When we learn from God, then you grow more like Christ. Then we will be able to better see how He is working in our lives and truly give Him thanks in all circumstances.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blood of your Son that gives us victory over sin and death.  Forgive us for our lack of gratitude, confidence, and humility.  Restore in us a clean heart and a right spirit.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Don’t Let Regret From The Past Rob You Of Joy In The Present

Purpose And Proper Daily Use Of Prayer

Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again” (Galatians 5:1 GNT).

 

We all have regrets.  A little is natural but when regret paralyzes your ability to enjoy the present, it is a problem.  As Christians we are not called to be timid and regretful.   Our calling, as detailed in Joshua 1, is to be “strong and courageous.”

As Joshua 1 begins, the Israelites are camped along the east bank of the Jordan River.  Forty years earlier the Israelites had an opportunity to enter the promised land, but they failed to trust God to give them victory.  As a result, God did not allow them to enter the land, but made them wander in the desert until the disobedient generation had all died.   I wonder if the new generation had a touch of regret that their parents were not with them to enjoy this moment.  Maybe God sensed this regret when on three occasions He gave them their calling, which certainly applies to us today, to be “strong and courageous.”

This calling is appealing to us, but we often struggle with implementation.  How do we do this?  Life is not a Hollywood movie in which we wake up one day with strength and courage.  The past can teach us valuable lessons for the future, but there is nothing to be learned from regret. 

Jesus had some advice for His disciples when they were rejected in a city: “shake off the dust that clings to your feet (Matthew 10:14).”  We cannot control if others chose to reject us or reject God.  We can control our response by moving on without regret.  Paul was bit by a deadly snake.  Instead of crying and mourning, he simply “shook it off in the fire” (Acts 28:5) and was unharmed.

Both of these stories teach us the right next step after encountering adversity – “shake it off.”  Don’t allow your thoughts to linger on negativity.  Instead, follow the advice of Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  If you are struggling with regret, then speak out loud and claim the 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.”

 Samuel regretted that he had anointed Saul as king.  Finally, God spoke to him in 1 Samuel 16: 1. “How long will you grieve over Saul?  Fill your horn with oil and go” (to anoint a new king).  God knows our regrets and poor choices.  His question to us now is the same as it was to Samuel.  How long will you regret your choices?  The next chapter to the story of your life is waiting.  Sometimes in life we must turn away from our poor choices, Saul, to find the next chapter, David.  What or who do you need to turn from now?

As you turn from the past be prepared for it to reach toward you to deny your entry into the future.  You will surely have thoughts of failure and second guessing yourself.  Maybe it’s safer to stay in the past.  Maybe the devil we know is better than the one we don’t know.  For example, Stockholm syndrome is a condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors during captivity.  Carefully examine your thoughts and ask yourself, who is the originator of these thoughts? 

Ask your pastor to help you with discernment so that the Spirit can guide you and reveal if you have any unknown strongholds of regret.  As we confess a stronghold, we also break the enemy off from that area. Remember, we are to bring every thought captive to God. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  The Word is stronger than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) and is essential to spiritual warfare.  As we speak Scripture aloud, we unleash truth to a lie (Ephesians 4:15), renew our minds (Romans 12:2), and gain freedom (Galatians 5:1).

We all have “good” excuses for not going in a new direction when the old direction is clearly bad.  Today truly is a new day for new beginnings.  The right next step for today is to leave the regret from the past in the past.  Others may want to live in the past and may even want to remind you of your past failures by using their tongue to speak words of death (Proverbs 18:21). These people may be physically alive, but more importantly they are spiritually dead.  Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).  Nothing should come between us and following Jesus, certainly not regret from the past nor the harsh words of those that seek to divide, deceive, and destroy.

Prayer:  Dear God, We have made poor choices in the past and will surely make more poor choices in the future.  Help us to live free of regret.  Forgive us for the times that we have used our tongues to speak words of death to a brother or sister in Christ.  Dear God, we ask a special measure of blessing and protection to be placed on those that are using their words to attack us.  May they feel your love and presence in such a way that their hearts will be softened, and their lives will be living testimonies to your grace.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We welcome your comments below.

Thank you for visiting. We trust that you have enjoyed reading our articles.

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Joy IS Contingent On A House

todd shupe

Joy IS Contingent On A House

todd shupe

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2 NIV).

 

Are you joyful?  Sadly, many cannot answer yes to this question.  Instead, they have postponed joyfulness until they obtain something such as a promotion, retirement, new boat, etc.  In essence they have chosen to have their joy contingent on an earthly achievement or possession.  It is important to recognize that there is a difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is temporary and is largely based on our circumstances.  Joy is the feeling that we have when we truly understand our identify in Christ and live each day as Easter people.

Many people have stress instead of joy because they are trying to control things and people that they simply cannot control.  We can’t control our spouse, co-workers, parents, or the future.  We need to have some control over children with appropriate discipline and we can gain some control over parents and siblings by establishing and enforcing appropriate boundaries.  However, everybody will eventually make their own decision, and we can only choose how we respond. 

We feel stress when we try to control situations and people that only God can control.  As we try to play God, we grow in opposition to God’s first commandment in which He declares, “I am the LORD your God (Exodus 20:2).  As seek to gain His control, we also violate His second commandment.  “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 3).  Note, He is not saying you are your God.  Nor, is He saying you are to have no other gods before me except for yourself.  If you are a control freak, then realize that you will never gain the control that you seek, you will be forever stressed, and your unrepented sin will be a willful defiance to God.  If you struggle with control issues, I urge you to spend some time in Romans 6 with particular emphasis on 6:23 as you prayerfully consider to seek control or yield to God. 

It is sad to see so many Christians that have denied themselves joy because Jesus wants us to be joyful. John 15:11 reads, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).  In the next verse he gives us the secret of his contentment, which can be ours too if we wisely use our free will.  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  Paul’s joy was because he was living out Matthew 6:19-21 which reads, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 It is fine to want things.  However, Romans 8:6 warns about the dangers of earthly pursuits.  “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” 

Only God can provide a peace that transcends all understanding and a joy that is independent of our physical circumstances.   The Psalmist put it this way, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  Taking delight in the Lord means that our hearts truly find peace and fulfillment in Him.   Doesn’t that sound like true joy?  As we truly rejoice or “delight” in the eternal things of God, our desires will begin to parallel His and we will want for nothing.

Heaven is our eternal home not a physical building on earth.  Jesus described heaven for us in John 14:2, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (emphasis added).”  Sadly, some people have decided that their joy is dependent on a new earthly house.  This begs the question.  Where is “home”?  God is Home. 

I think most people are seeking control because they really want power.  True power comes when you surrender to God anything you’ve been trying to control. The Bible says, “Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). This surrender is the key to what we all seek – a life of serenity.  If you are struggling with control issues, the right next step is to pray the serenity prayer below. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Healing A Broken Spirit

todd shupe

Healing A Broken Spirit

todd shupe

A broken spirit who can bear it?” (Proverbs 18:14 NASB).

 

One of the many names for Jesus was The Great Physician.  His fingerprints are evident every day when people are healed of terrible diseases.  The healing may come in the form of restoration of our current life or renewal to an enteral life in His presence.

One area that medicine cannot heal is a broken spirit.  We have wonderful counselors and medications for mental health that can be helpful, and I would never diminish the benefit of mental health professionals and medication.   It may appear that these medications and counselors are from the secular world.  However, James 1:17 teaches us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Proverbs 18:14 is essentially telling us that we cannot bear a broken spirit.  Furthermore, we cannot heal a broken spirit.  God alone can mend a broken spirit.

“A broken spirit comes from a broken heart,” said the late Dr. Myles Munroe, a evangelist, author, speaker and leadership consultant. “When you have had your soul torn, it affects your entire life. It causes you to have a depressed spirit. The trauma of a broken spirit is very real, and it is almost hellish in the sense that no one can save you from it. God is the only one who can repair a spirit.”

Dr. Linda Mintle, a nationally recognized author and speaker with an impressive list of television and radio credits, says, “Nothing in God’s economy is beyond repair. God does His best work with broken pieces. If you look in the Bible, He takes people who are broken and wounded, and He restores them and uses them mightily. With faith and a belief in Jesus Christ, you can be totally transformed and free. That is a promise.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began with two blessings.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  As we feel broken hearted, we are more likely to also feel humble.  The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).”  Our God will pour out His blessing and race on the broken hearted that seek Him in humility.  The blessing of our heavenly Father is even more powerful than the blessing that Isaac bestowed upon Jacob in Genesis 27:27-29.

The Bible contains countless Scripture in which God promises to save anyone whose spirit is broken and bruised.  One of my favorites is, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).  God is revealing Himself as the true source of healing and renewal.

Prayer:  Dear God, You know what it feels like to be rejected, alone, and outcast.  Help us to feel your presence and stand firm on your promises as we pass through dark times.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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How To Be An AAA Rated Father (Part 2)

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How To Be An AAA Rated Father (Part 2)

todd shupe

And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee” (Genesis 27:25 KJV).

Fathering is increasingly important because children are increasingly being born into either fatherless homes or homes in which the father is present but not active in the life in the child. 

Men have been appointed by God as the head of the home. I understand that many women find this troubling, and the Bible is full of stories of courageous women that have served the body of Christ. The truth is that many men have done a terrible job of leading their house in any capacity, particularly spiritually. Many men are not even physically present in the home or if so, they do not recognize Jesus as their Lord and savior and will not even attend church on Sunday.

The article, “The Daddy Factor: The Crucial Impact of Fathers on Young Children’s Development” by Claire Lerner provides some eye-opening results from new research regarding the impact of fathers on the development of children.  For example, when fathers use more words with their children during play, children have more advanced language skills a year later. This is especially important because language skills are correlated with academic success.  Also, the more time fathers spend in enriching, stimulating play with their child—such as playing pretend or sharing stories—the better the child’s math and reading scores are at 10 and 11 years old.

I previously wrote a blog titled “How To Be A AAA-Rated Father,” which focused on three attributes that are needed to be a good father – affection, affirmation, and attention. This current blog deals with the result of a fatherless child.  A fatherless child will be missing three key attributes as he or she goes trough life.  This void will be a huge obstacle for a happy and successful life. 

First, a fatherless child will be missing accountability.  The father serves as a daily life coach.   Even the best of children will lie, steal, disrespect, destroy, and cheat.  The father will unconditionally love the child and because of his love will discipline the child as needed.  The father will hold the child accountable.  Accountability is like walls in that they provide protection.  “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28).

Second, a fatherless child will be missing apprenticeship.   Historically, many jobs were learned as an apprentice.  Similarly, fathers teach valuable life skills to their children.  A father trains his children to prepare them to become self-sufficient.  Each move a father makes, good or bad, is training his children.   Most lessons are caught and not taught, which means that children are much more keenly focused on what we do rather than what we say.  Fathers establish the norms in the family.  I was blessed as a child to have a father that established norms of going to church on Sunday, family, hard work, education, fiscal responsibility, respect for authority, humility, and more.

Third, a fatherless child will be missing affirmation.  As a child, I wanted nothing more than to please my parents.  I wanted their approval and affirmation and I received it.  Can you imagine the psychological damage to a child if they never hear words of affirmation from their father?  What if instead the child hears the opposite: “Why are you so dumb?  You are a disappointment to me!”  The identify of the child becomes one of failure.  How can they face the challenges of life with strength and courage?  

The need for a child to receive the blessing of his father is illustrated in Genesis 27.  Jacob went to great lengths to receive his father’s blessing.  Be sure that each of your children receives your blessing and help them to have accountability, apprenticeship, and affirmation.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of children.  Father, help us to be more like you and to instill positive attributes into our children.  Amen. 

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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The Holy Covenant of Marriage – Part 4: Divorce

The Holy Covenant of Marriage – Part 4: Divorce

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 NIV). 

 

If marriage is a Godly uniting of a couple together, then divorce is a secular process to separate what God has united.  The separation is not done with surgical precision and results in a “tearing apart.”   The result is ugly and does not honor God.

It is well known that approximately half of all first marriages end in divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. I think this is because most marriages involve people that do not understand the Holy covenant nature of their marriage. People cannot put into practice that which they do not understand. If couples did understand the marriage covenant, then they would realize that they should not place each other as number one in their life.  Also, the children should not be number one or even number two.  In a covenant marriage, God is always welcome, always present, and both parties are always seeking His face and place Him above all else.  They place each other as second.  Finally, any children are then third.  Of course, situations will arise in which the children need to become a higher priority, but this should be the exception and not the norm or the marriage will be harmed. 

The Bible makes it very clear that the responsibility of leadership in marriage falls squarely on the husband’s shoulders. 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches,

 “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

If God has created the marriage, then the couple can claim the promise of Romans 8:31. “If God is for us, then who can be against us?”  I think we can insert the word “what” in place of “who” in Romans 8:31 for an even broader understanding of the unlimited power and providence of our God.

Sadly, approximately half of all first marriages and a higher percentage of subsequent marriages end in divorce. God clearly grieves the Heart of God.  The Word teaches in Malachi 2:16, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.”

The Bible only explicitly allows divorce for two reasons. Jesus specifically allowed divorce for infidelity. “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  Adultery is forbidden by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 13:4. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).  In such a case, however, divorce is not mandated or even encouraged.  The Christian spouse should always strive toward forgiveness and reconciliation should be extended and pursued if possible. But divorce is allowed, especially in cases where the sinning spouse persists in an adulterous relationship.

“Paul adds a second exception, in instances where an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage. This would typically be the case when one of the two partners is converted to Christ at some point after marrying and the other person refuses to continue in the marriage. “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. Yet if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:14-15).

The idea for a couple to become married should be Divinely initiated by God and affirmed by the couple before they proceed with any wedding planning.  If God did not bless the wedding at the beginning and the Holy Spirit was not welcome during the marriage, then the marriage will likely end in divorce because neither party truly understood the Holy covenant nature of the marriage. 

Prayer:  Dear God, We know that your heart grieves each time a marriage covenant ends in divorce.  Help us to live out our wedding vows and to love our wives as You love us.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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The Holy Covenant of Marriage Part 3: Submission and Leadership

The Holy Covenant of Marriage Part 3: Submission and Leadership

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24 NIV). 

Perhaps no other Scripture is more misunderstood than the concept of submission in marriage.  Although there is much Scripture regarding marital roles, perhaps none is cited more than Ephesians 5.  It should be noted that the first directive for submission is for general submission to each other.  “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).  This submission is in deference to the ultimate leadership of the husband for the health and harmonious working of the marriage relationship.

One of the more highly debated verses, which occurs later in Ephesians 5. concerns the role of a Christian wife. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24).  This Scripture is troubling to many wives and needs further explanation.  Since the best method to understand Scripture is other Scripture, we see that the concept of submission from Ephesians 5:24 is supported in Colossians 3:18-19Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  This idea is further reinforced in 1 Peter 3:1. “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

These Scriptures are often misinterpreted to mean that women are viewed as second-class citizens. However, this is not true.  Scripture states that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). A good husband loves his wife unconditionally and is a servant leader just like Christ. 

The submission of wives is not like the obedience children owe parents (Ephesians 6:1), nor does this text command all women to submit to all men (only to your own husbands, not to all husbands!). Both genders are equally created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–28) and joint heirs of eternal life (Galatians 3:28–29). Both genders should be equally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14) in their Christian walk with Jesus.

The husband and wife are equal partners but charged with different areas of responsibility.  The husband is asked to love his wife and the wife is asked to respect her husband.  The final directive of Ephesians 5 details the different requirements of the couple.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33, emphasis added).”   Remember, both are equally called to submit to each other so therefore both are effectively called to love and respect the other.

Equality is an important concept to understand as we probe into marital roles. The equality of the husband and wife is similar to that of God and Jesus.  The Son told us He had equal authority as the Father.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18).

Here, He is proclaiming His divinity and equality to the Father in this Scripture.  At Calvary, Jesus, while still being equally yoked to the Father, showed His submission to the Father by stating, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39, emphasis added).  Not only did He die in submission, but He lived and ministered in submission.  “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38).  Jesus taught that prayer is a form of submission to the Father.  When Jesus gave the disciples the Lord’s prayer, He taught them to pray for God’s sovereign rule (not His rule) by speaking,  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, emphasis added).

It is important to note that the focus in these verses is on Christ because husbands do not “sanctify” their wives or “wash” them of their sins, though they are to do all in their power to promote their wives’ holiness.

The leadership of the husband is defined by Paul not as demanding his rights but rather as laying down his life for the good of his wife (Ephesians 5:25).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Jesus walked this earth as a servant leader and gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) Jesus is also the head of the church.  Men, your primary church is your family, and you serve as a priest for that family. The right next step after reading this is to joyfully and readily serve, honor, and cherish your wife. 

Sacrificial action is an integral part of the husband’s role as the head of the home. Again, Christ is a wonderful example of this. He demonstrated servant leadership by washing his disciple’s feet. In marriage, being a servant leader means ensuring that the wife’s material, emotional and spiritual needs are met. 

Let me leave you with one final thought.  Men, are you giving mercy and forgiveness to your wife as freely as God has given it to you?  If not, now is the time to start.

Prayer:  Dear God, May we focus our attention on submitting ourselves to You rather than the submission of our wives to ourselves.  Amen.

 

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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