Finding Good Fruit In Our Pain

Finding Good Fruit In Our Pain

But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-11 NIV).

Is there anything more difficult to deal with in our human condition than pain?  Physical pain can be horrible and so intense that the strongest Christian cries out, “Abba! Father!” to be Healed.   Mental pain from the loss of a loved one can crush our spirit.  All pain is raw and real.

In our times of pain, it is natural to ask, “Where is God?”  I certainly have asked this question before and suspect that I am not alone.  The truth is that God shares the pain of every single person. When we are hurting, He isn’t distant. He is aware of our pain.  He cares for us during our pain.  In my times of pain, I think of how Jesus reacted when He saw the pain and tears on the faces of Mary and Martha because Lazarus had recently died.  Jesus, the God of heaven and earth, stopped and cried with them.  He embraced their pain and I believe that His Spirit does that today for those that chose to turn toward Him.

Our pain presents us with an opportunity to “yoke up” to God by following the invitation of Matthew 11:28-30.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Our pain also presents us with the opportunity to look for someone to blame and seek revenge.  Perhaps you were the victim of an accident caused by a drunk driver.  The drunk driver may in turn blame the bar tender that over served him or his boss for not respecting him which “caused” him to drive while intoxicated.   Sometimes we are an innocent victim, but other times the pain we are experiencing is a direct result of some very poor choices.  The most important thing we can ever do is an honest self-examination, but yet the most difficult thing we can ever do is an honest self-examination.

Pain is inevitable in this life.  Perhaps pain is God’s way of scratching the surface to reveal what is underneath.  I have good friends that have experienced tremendous pain.  They have been scratched deep, but they never lost their joy and the Fruits of Spirit were always manifested in their words and actions.  I have seen others that when gently scratched, a dark underbelly is revealed that indicates mental instability and/or a poor understanding of Scripture.

I wonder if for some their response to pain is a learned behavior.  For example, if a parent modelled for a child that pain requires “an eye for an eye.”  They may see pain as an opportunity to play the victim, seek revenge, and engage in character attacks of their perceived offender.   So, as an adult maybe they are following the same behavior as modelled to them by their parent(s).  Perhaps Numbers 14:18 was written for these situations.  “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation” (emphasis added).

Some people are particularly adept to play the victim and solicit sympathy in times of pain.   This can be done overtly by public slander and defamation or covertly by “planting seeds of doubt” in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of their perceived offender and to further aid in their effort to win the “battle of public opinion.”  These seeds never find fertile ground, never yield good fruit but do speak volumes about the character of the sower.

Jesus experienced pain so we have confidence that when we pray in our times of pain that He understands our pain. Hebrews 4:15 says: “Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are.”

He understands emotional pain, abandonment, loneliness, criticism, discrimination, rejection, and betrayal. Jesus also understands physical pain. Can you imagine not only the pain of the crucifixion but also carrying the sin of every evil act done throughout history?  It is important to remember that in His pain and without sin He descended into hell but His victory over sin and death allows us to be presented as pure and blameless to the Father.

The Holy Spirit also shares our pain.  When our pain is so great that all we can speak are groans, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf.  Romans 8:26 reads, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

God shares our pain because He created us. The Bible says, “The one who formed their hearts understands everything they do” (Psalm 33:15). In other words, God is never shocked by your emotions or your thoughts.

There are many Psalms that begin in a similar fashion as Psalm 130:1. “Lord, I cry out to you out of the depths of my despair!”  He not only welcomes our cries of pain, but He understands and offers comfort, if we plant our seeds on fertile ground rather than sowing seeds of doubt.  If you are in pain, remember Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

You’re never closer to God than when you have a broken heart.  This is the time to plant seeds in accordance with Matthew 13:23.  “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  What sort of seeds will you plant during your pain?  Choose wisely because future generations are watching and your actions can have implications for three and four generations. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the invitation to share our pain.  Help us to turn to you in times of pain and to plant seeds that bring honor and glory to you.  Help us to resist the temptation of the flesh to plant seeds of doubt and seek revenge.  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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Waiting For God In “The Gap”

Waiting For God In “The Gap”

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12 NIV).

 

The period between asking God for something and receiving it is often referred to as “the gap.”  Sometimes, the request is granted instantly (e.g., Matthew 9:35, Matthew 5:25-34, Luke 7:1-10).   Other times, the request may linger for years before God responds.  Joseph waited over 13 years before his prophetic promise was fulfilled.  Moses waited 40 years before he had his divine encounter with the flaming voice of God.  Abraham waited 25 years before God granted him a son. 

We often think of waiting as a waste of time.  We all seek instant gratification, and we often confuse God with Santa Claus and expect Him to answer our prayers on our timeframe.   Perhaps a better way to view waiting is to realize that God is using this time to grow us closer to Him.  The Hebrew word for “wait” is literally “to entwine” — like strands of a rope twisted into one. It is important to note that the Bible contains over 7,000 promises to us, but God does not promise that He will fulfill every one of them instantly.  In fact, God has all of eternity to fulfill His promises. That means that some of His promises are certainly not going to be fulfilled in our timeframe, and it also means that some will likely not be fulfilled until our earthly life is over!

I wonder if God is using the time in the gap to grow our faith in Him.  Perhaps He is waiting on us to surrender all to Him, while we are waiting on Him to answer our prayer.  I wish I knew why God choses to quickly honor some requests and not others.  If so, I could certainly cut down on my time in the gap!  I do know that on many occasions after Jesus instantly answered prayers for healing, He mentioned that the petitioner had demonstrated “great faith” by their request to Him.  These petitioners knew that if they were able to get in close proximity to Jesus to ask Him or just touch His garment, that He would honor their request.

Hebrews 11 is commonly referred to as the Hall of Faith.  This chapter details the remarkable accomplishments of some otherwise unremarkable people that were accomplished through faith and begins by defining faith for us.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  The Apostle Paul expanded upon this concept when he wrote, “For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  This goes against our natural instincts and is very difficult to do. 

For me, faith is waiting for something that you know is coming but you have absolutely no idea when it will come.  The time in the gap requires endurance, and true endurance comes from God.   

God will likely not talk to us through a booming voice in the sky, a burning bush, or a prophet as He did in the Bible.  However, He is alive and talking to each of us right now through Scripture.   He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Our tendency during time in the gap is to look at the problem.  Our tendency in the gap is to look at the mountain rather than the One that taught us that we could move mountains.  Moses modelled the same approach as those that approached Jesus with faith in their hearts and asked for healing. The Bible says that Moses “kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).  Moses showed great faith and we can “move mountains” and do even greater things than Jesus but only through faith.

During my time in the gap, I often asked God, “How much longer?”  I have come to realize that God wants me to build my life on His promises rather than seeking His explanations for not following my time frame. In fact, God doesn’t owe me or you an explanation for anything. God is God, and we are not.  I often think of God’s response when Job questioned His actions.  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:4).

I enjoy being a substitute pastor at local United Methodist Churches.  During these times, I often preach about a topic that is a struggle for myself and likely others in the congregation.  Similarly, I often write blogs for similar reasons.  This is now the sixth time that I have addressed the topic of waiting for God.  I have made progress over the years, but as with many things, I am still a work in progress.

On one hand I have faith in God, but on the other hand I would really like some assurances that He is taking me to the place I want to go.  True freedom comes when I stop asking where we are going and understand that wherever we are going, it will be better than whatever I had planned and we will arrive at the perfect time.  For me the key to finding peace in the gap is to embrace the journey, forget my timeframe, and worship God rather than question Him or lobby Him to embrace my plan.

Prayer:  Please forgive us for our lack of faith in You during times in the gap.  Help us to embrace this time as a time to grow closer to You and lean not on our own understanding.  We not only cast our cares upon you, but we also seek to fasten our yoke to you to lighten our burdens and keep our paths straight.  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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Fire Consumes or Purifies

Fire Consumes Or Purifies

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV).

 

One thing that is as certain as death and taxes is that in this fallen world is we will have problems.  Jesus said these words in John 16:33 many years ago, but they still ring true today.  “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  To me, this means that our earthly troubles are temporary but our Lord and Savior reigns forever and in Him and through Him we have life and victory over sin and death.  What sort of life does He offer you may wonder?  Well, as we return back to the book of John in chapter 10, verse 10, we learn the answer.  “I have come so that they may life, and have it abundantly (emphasis added)” 

Our troubles often appear overwhelming when we focus on the discomfort of the problem rather than the provision and protection of God.  Also, our troubles can consume us when we try to face them alone rather than with a group of fellow followers of Christ. 

Problems and trouble come in many forms, but they always bring some sort of “heat.”  It is important to understand that the flame that is causing the heat is never intended for our harm. Of course, a fire that destroys a house is terrible, but such a fire would not come from God.  My house was not destroyed by fire but was badly flooded in 2016.  I was devastated, but I watched God work through human hands and eventually my house was repaired, and my furniture was replaced.  Now, I have a powerful testimony to His faithfulness.

Everything that is good about a fire can be listed as a blessing of the Holy Spirit. Fire is a purifying force, and the Holy Spirit is the ultimate purifier.   Rev. Max Lucado wrote in a recent devotional – “We need the cleansing, sanctifying work of the Spirit of God.”  As I first read this devotional from Rev. Lucado my mind drifted to Malachi 3:3. “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”  Silver is refined through heat to burn off the impurities.  Similarly, we are refined through our troubles as we grow closer to God and then emerge with a strong testimony of His faithfulness.  I think it is interesting that a silversmith knows that all of the impurities are gone when he can see his reflection in the molten silver.  As we are refined, our face begins to “look” more like Christ and we begin to seek the same things that He is seeking for us.

While we are in the valleys of life, life is certainly hard.  The stress can take a toll on our bodies.  However, this is the best time to invite this refining fire to finish its work in our hearts.  A wildlife in the forest brings immediate devastation, but eventually there is new growth and renewal.  The fires in our lives also bring about spiritual renewal in spite of our physical condition, which I think is the message of (2 Corinthians 4:16).  “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  

The next time you feel the heat of life, stop and realize that God is at work in your life.  If you turn toward Him, you will not only emerge on the other side with a closer walk with our Lord, but also a testimony that is a powerful witness in a world that so badly needs powerful witnesses.  Don’t let the fire consume you but rather let it purify you.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for refining us.  Forgive us for the times we turn from you and help us to embrace the fires of life and yoke to your Holy Spirit to find joy in all circumstances.  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 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

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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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.

Liked this post?

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Healing A Broken Spirit

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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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