The Spiritual Gift of Presence

The Spiritual Gift of Presence

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13 NIV).

 

Spiritual gifts are something every Christian is given when they receive the gift of salvation. Just as the gift of salvation is by grace through faith, so are the spiritual gifts. 

There are several different spiritual gifts. These gifts are not something we possess; they are God’s supernatural ability to act in our lives in various ways.  There are ministry gifts, manifestation gifts, and motivational gifts.

According to Scripture, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  As a Methodist, my denomination recognizes the following as spiritual gifts:  administration, apostleship, compassion, discernment, evangelism, exhortation, faith, giving, healing, helping, interpretation of tongues, knowledge, leadership, miracles, prophecy, servanthood, shepherding, teaching, tongues, and wisdom.

 I think the spiritual gift of presence is often overlooked.  It is not one of the seven that is directly mentioned in Scripture, nor is it specifically mentioned by my church.  However, the Bible has several examples of the spiritual gift of presence. 

 One example comes from the book of Job.  He was a prosperous man of great piety. Satan tested Job to determine if Job’s piety is merely rooted in his prosperity.  Job suffered tremendous losses at the hands of the enemy (possessions, family, and finally his own health), but Job still refused to curse God.  Job’s friends came to comfort him in his time of sorrow.  When they finally arrived, Scriptures tells us that they, “sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13).  This is the spiritual gift of presence in action.  It was not necessary for the friends to say the right thing or bring the right gift.

Paul traveled throughout the Mediterranean area.  Most biblical scholars agree that Paul would have traveled over 10,000 miles – by foot!  That would be equal to walking between New York and Los Angeles nearly four times!  Several books of the Bible are based on his letters to the new church in various cities.  Another example of presence comes from Paul’s letter to the new church in Rome.  He wrote, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—  that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12). One thing is clear: giving the gift is tied to Paul’s visit. He is the conveyer, and recipient, of the gift because he understands the gift of presence, and it cannot, therefore, be given by letter or proxy.  Paul also knows that we must be present to “greet each other with a holy kiss” (2 Corinthians 13:12).

In this post-pandemic world, people are more than ever hungry for human contact.  When we show up and support our friends during their time of crisis, we are using our spiritual gift of presence and bearing one another’s burdens.  In the book “Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard: How to Hear and How to Be Heard in Equal Communication,” David W. Augsburger writes, “Being heard is as close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”  Be blessed as you are a blessing to others.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for all of the spiritual gifts that you have bestowed upon us.  Help us to boldly and courageously use the gifts that you have equipped us with and to do the good deeds that you have prepared in advance for 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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Can Prisoners Be Free?

Can Prisoners Be Free?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV).

Perhaps the greatest benefit that we have as American citizens is our civil rights and liberties as identified in the Bill of Rights.   We enjoy the freedom of speech, assembly, due process of law, etc. 

The early Israelites were required to follow 613 Commandments from God as provided to Moses.  The Mosaic Law begins with the Ten Commandments and includes the many rules of religious observance given in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, called the Pentateuch. 

God made a new Covenant with us through the blood of His Son, Jesus.  As Christians, we enjoy true freedom due to His sacrifice.  Romans 8:2 reads, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  We have freedom over sin and death, and we will enjoy life everlasting with the Father.

However, I see many people each day that are walking the streets but are not free.  They are enslaved to their sins, unwilling to repent, and unable to enjoy the freedom that comes from the Spirit.   Some are enslaved to drugs, work, fear of the future, etc.  This begs the question, how can a baptized Christian that is an American citizen be enslaved if they are walking down the street?

Sadly, these people have imprisoned themselves in their minds.  This is the worst sort of prison because they have no hope.  Perhaps Jesus was addressing those without hope when He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). 

So, what does hope have to with faith in God?  Everything.  The connection between hope and faith is explained in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Those without hope do not truly understand that our God is the God of victory, power, and miracles.  Those without faith are not able to walk through the darkest valley and fear no evil as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 23:4.

However, I see many people each day that are walking the streets but are not free.  They are enslaved to their sins, unwilling to repent, and unable to enjoy the freedom that comes from the Spirit.   Some are enslaved to drugs, work, fear of the future, etc.  This begs the question, how can a baptized Christian that is an American citizen be enslaved if they are walking down the street?

Sadly, these people have imprisoned themselves in their minds.  This is the worst sort of prison because they have no hope.  Perhaps Jesus was addressing those without hope when He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). 

So, what does hope have to with faith in God?  Everything.  The connection between hope and faith is explained in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Those without hope do not truly understand that our God is the God of victory, power, and miracles.  Those without faith are not able to walk through the darkest valley and fear no evil as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 23:4.

I have been blessed to participate in a national prison ministry known as Kairos.  This ministry brings a Gospel message to people that have committed very violent crimes and are unlikely to be released back into society.  At my first visit to the Angola Prison near St. Francisville, La, I was struck by the freedom of several of the inmates.  I heard joy in their voices and saw it in their eyes.  I was initially surprised and then I listened to testimony after testimony from the inmates about what God has done for them.  Years ago, this prison was one of the worst in the country due to number of violent crimes occurring inside the prison.  The warden at the time-built a church in the prison, introduced Kairos, and distributed Bibles. 

In short, he pointed the inmates to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit was welcome and as a result there was freedom.  “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, emphasis added).

If you are seeking freedom, the right next step is to ask the Holy Spirit to search you and reveal any areas of your life that have you imprisoned.  Confession and repentance are essential to forgiveness and freedom.  Shame and fear are not fruits of the Spirit.  2 Timothy 1:7 teaches, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”   May be all be so blessed as to live as freely as those prisoners I met in Angola. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for your Son and the gift that we have to live as Easter people.  Thank you for the forgiveness of our sins and life-everlasting in your Church Triumphant. Send your Holy Spirit to search us and reveal to us those things that imprison us.  Give us the courage and strength to rid ourselves of the sin and shame that clings so tightly and separates us from you. 

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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Rethinking Anxiety

Rethinking Anxiety

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).

 

I think we all have some level of anxiety.  This is only natural with so much turmoil and uncertainty in the world.  How we deal with our anxiety may be more important than the intensity of our anxiety.  

Ten years ago, Americans spent $14 billion per year on stress management.  Now it is $190 billion!  So, what does that tell us?  Yes, we are a stressed-out society with a lot of anxiety.  Yes, we are desperately looking for answers from the pharmaceutical industry, illegal drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.  But, no we are not finding answers from these sources.  Note:  There is absolutely nothing wrong with proper use of pharmaceutical drugs for anxiety.  In fact, they can be good, and we know, “Everything good comes from God” (James 1:17).   

One good option for managing anxiety is a healthy diet.  The best meal that you will eat is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ at Holy Communion. 

Jesus offers us the same “living water” that He offered the woman at the well (John 4).  I am better able to rethink my anxiety when I think about the magnitude of the promise from Jesus to this woman which is still available to all of us today.  Our salvation is a free gift from God and cannot be earned by works.   Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can claim His promise of the forgiveness of our sins which in turn will allow Him to present us to the Father as holy and without blame.  As a holy child of God, we will be blessed with eternal life or life everlasting with the Father.  What a blessing! 

The troubles of today always seem large when viewed through our earthly eyes.  Stress, trouble, and anxiety have been around for as long as Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Life and Jesus told us that trouble is inevitable.  As for me, I gain peace by reading and praying over John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Isaiah prophesied from 739–681 BC to a nation that had turned a deaf ear to the Lord. Instead of serving Him with humility and offering love to their neighbors, the nation of Judah offered meaningless sacrifices in God’s temple at Jerusalem and committed injustices throughout the nation. The people of Judah turned their backs on God and alienated themselves from Him, which created the need for Isaiah’s pronouncements of judgment—declarations made in the hope that God’s chosen people would return to Him.

God calmed the fears of Isaiah, not by removing the problem, but by revealing His divine power and presence. Rejoice that God can do what you cannot do! Your anxiety decreases as your understanding of your heavenly father increases.

Our minds cannot be full of God and, at the same time, full of fear.  James 1:8 reads, “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Are you troubled, restless, sleepless? Then rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty and stand firm on his invitation from Matthew 11:28. “Comes to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Jeremiah draws a direct connection between faith and peace. He says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green and will not be anxious in the year of drought” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for going before us day and night to light the way.  Forgive us for our doubt and all of our trespasses as we forgive others that have trespassed against 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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Embrace Your Pain

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Embrace Your Pain

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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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Can We Really Be Thankful in All Circumstances?

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Can We Really Be Thankful in All Circumstances?

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“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.

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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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Judge Others Or Listen?

Judge Others Or Listen?

“According to our Law we cannot condemn people before hearing them and finding out what they have done” (John 7:51 GNT).

 

Those close to me will often tell me that I am naïve.  I tend to be optimistic and take people at their word.  I am not cynical.   However, each day I am shocked by the level of hatred that I see among people.  Hatred can be manifested in many ways such as physical violence, racism, oppression, etc.   

Hatred is born as a thought and grows into an action.  During the thought process a judgment is made to justify or rationalize the pending action. 

One of my favorite characters from the Bible was Nicodemus.  He was a Pharisee, but he came to Jesus one night to listen and learn from Him (John 3:1-21).  One time the Pharisees were trying to judge Jesus without letting Him have a say or explain himself (without listening).  Nicodemus spoke up and said, “According to our Law we cannot condemn people before hearing them and finding out what they have done” (John 7:51).

Scripture warns us against the perils of judging others.  Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

Scripture also encourages us to listen to others.  James 1:19 teaches, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” 

So, how do we stop from being judgmental.  Listen.  Be quick to listen.  Listen with compassion, honesty, sincerity, and fairness.

I wonder how many times I have judged someone without listening to their story first?  I wonder if I would have joined Nicodemus or sided with the other Pharisees when it came time to judge Jesus?  How would you have responded?

Imagine a world in which we all offer grace to sinners (each other) and encouragement rather than judgment.  Isn’t this what we are asking in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10).

Leave the judging to God.  He wants us to listen and not judge.  After listening, then pray.  Don’t judge. Just pray.  Finally, be blessed as you bless others. 

Prayer:  Dear God:  We confess that we have judged others without listening.  We have pointed out the plank in our neighbor’s eye while ignoring the log in our own eye.  Help us, dear God, to listen as you listen and to love as you love.  Help us to listen and listen some more and love and love some more.  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 world’s sin is unbelief in me” (John 16:9 TLB).

I have always been more interested in the root cause of a problem rather than dealing with the results of the problem.  As Christians we talk a lot about sin, particularly the separation of the sinner from God and the forgiveness of sin due to the blood of Jesus for those that repent and earnestly seek His face.

However, I wonder if we truly understand the basis behind our sin.  Some would argue that the root cause is a desire to live in the flesh, pursue our own desires rather than discern His will, the natural consequence of original sin, or perhaps another reason.  I think all of these are valid answers but there may be something a little deeper that we can explore. 

I believe that at the root of every sin rests at least a momentary doubt about God.  In John 16:9 Jesus says, “The sin is unbelief in me.”  When we don’t believe the divine or sovereign nature of our Lord, that is the root of all sin. 

At each visit to my doctor, my body temperature and blood pressure are checked to indicate my physical health.  Our emotions are an indicator of our spiritual health.  Some emotions reveal an inner doubt in God and will surely lead to sin and a separation from the Father.

As we grow impatient, it reveals doubt in God’s perfect timing. God has a plan for our lives, but His time is often different from our time but it is always better and perfect.  Scripture teaches in 2 Peter 3:8-9, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

God is never going to be in a hurry.  In John 11 we read that Jesus delayed His departure for two days after receiving word that Lazarus was dying.  How often do we want things to happen our own timetable?  How often do we take action to accomplish our desires without waiting to allow God to act at the perfect time and perfect manner?

Another indicator emotion is resentment or bitterness.   These emotions reveal doubt in God’s wisdom.  We easily trust God during good times, but we truly trust in Him when we follow Him in bad times.   During the bad times do you become disappointed in God?  Also, during bad times do you doubt that He can bring good out of bad as promised in Romans 8:28. 

Guilt is a negative emotion that reveals an unbelief in God’s forgiveness.  I think short term guilt is healthy because it can serve to prevent us from making similar poor choices in the future.  However, the duration of your guilt should be commensurate with the time needed to confess your sin.  Long-term guilt result from an inability to forgive yourself because you don’t believe God has forgiven you.

At times we feel inadequate, which reveals we doubt in God’s power.  Scripture tells us repeatedly that God does not call the empowered, but He empowers those that He calls.  As Christians, we have all been called into ministry through our baptism and profession of faith.  True power never comes from the flesh but rather from the Spirit.  There is no power on this earth that is remotely close to His power. 

If you have these negative emotions and want to gain victory, then you need to start doubting your doubts.  If you believe in God’s Word, you can trust what it says about the nature of God and His love for you.  He keeps His promises, has perfect timing, is wise, forgives you, and works powerfully through you.  The right next step to victory is to read Scripture AND believe His promises and reject any doubt that is from the enemy. .

Prayer:  I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;* the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic** church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 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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Finding Joy While Suffering

God lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock
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One of the more common questions from Christians is about suffering.  Why does a God that loves us as His own children allow suffering?  Perhaps the greatest challenge to our faith is to understand pain and suffering. 

Many people point to the Book of Job to understand suffering.  God did not cause Job’s suffering but allowed the devil to cause suffering.  Job was tempted and tested.  Job struggled in his understanding and cried out to the Lord.  God spoke truth and declared His sovereignty.  Job, in the end, chose God and was rewarded.

Job is useful today for us to understand suffering, and to then step out in faith to claim the promise of Romans 5:3-5.  “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

There is nothing joyful about suffering.  We do not rejoice for the suffering but rejoice while we persevere through the suffering.  God never causes suffering but will allow it to bring us closer to Him (Christian perfection). Scripture encourages us to consider it all joy, even times of suffering because these times will help make us more like the One that was perfect.  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Just like Job, none of us are exempt from suffering, loneliness, discouragement, false accusations, or unjust criticism. In fact, Jesus understands and experienced them all.  As we experience them, we can be bitter or we can persevere with joyful anticipation as we wait to see how the Lord will use it for good as stated in 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.”  While we do not know the particular manner or time in which God will use the pain, we can rejoice that if we trust in Him, it will be used to develop the character of Christ in us.

So, what is the right next step.  First, build your house on the Rock.  This means to feed your faith during the good times (and bad times) so when the winds of suffering come, you will be better prepared to persevere. 

A personal relationship with Jesus is essential to finding victory before, during, and after suffering.  If we approach Him with trust and delight, we are then able to claim His promises of provision and protection.  For example, Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (emphasis added).  Moreover, Psalm 37:4 reads, “Delight in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart (emphasis added).

Trust is a sign of faith.  Go read Hebrews 11 to learn how God honors the faith (trust) of flawed people.  As we delight in the Lord, the desires of our heart become closer in accordance with His desires.  In times of suffering, do not be discouraged but instead rely on Him for provision and protection, which are far greater and stronger than anything from this world.  Our Lord experienced suffering and knew we would also when He said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  We can overcome the suffering if we stand steadfast in faith and delight and claim His promises.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us.  Help us to trust and delight in You during good times and bad. 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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