Different Roads but the Same Destination

todd shupe

Different Roads but the Same Destination

todd shupe

Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us? ” (Luke 24:32 NKJV).

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” (Acts 9:3-4 NIV).

Each of us has our own personal story of how we came to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.   For some, the journey to Christ is sudden and dramatic as what happened to Saul, later to be known as Paul, on the road to Damascus. For others, the journey to salvation looks more like the road to Emmaus – a gradual realization that Jesus has been with us before we even realize it or accept Him due to His prevenient grace. 

The Road to Damascus is an exciting story as detailed in Acts 9.  Saul was a Pharisee on his way to Damascus to bring followers of Jesus to the high priest for persecution.  On the road, God revealed himself to Saul in a dramatic fashion and Saul immediately submits himself to our Lord. I love the imagery in Acts 9:3-6.   “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? . . . I am Jesus. . . .’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’”  Saul was blinded for three days after the encounter, and I suspect that this experience later prompted him to write, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Scripture tells of other “Damascus” experiences in which a person has a sudden revelation or epiphany that radically changes their beliefs.  For example, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3) and meets Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6).  Mother Theresa has talked about her Damascus road experience when she was on a train at 16 years old.

The Damascus road experience is exciting and captivating.  Many Christians feel disappointed if they do not have a similar testimony.  The problem with waiting for our own Damascus road experience is that we may miss our walk to Emmaus experience.  Remember, God does not always reveal Himself in a dramatic fashion.  Sometimes, He is not in the wind, earthquake, or fire but rather speaks in a “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

The walk to Emmaus story is detailed in Luke 24:13-35 and describes how Jesus can gradually and subtly reveal Himself to us.  The story describes how two of Jesus’ followers were sad as they walked to Emmaus because the person (Jesus) that they thought was the Messiah had died three days earlier.  Jesus comes along side of them as they walk.  He walks and talks with them and interprets the Scriptures to them, but they do not recognize Him until at the end of the day when He blesses bread and gives it to them.  Then, they finally recognized our Lord. 

As I read the Emmaus story my mind takes me to the story of the LORD calling a young Samuel into ministry in 1 Samuel 3.  God called Samuel three times, but Samuel did not recognize His call, and Scripture tells us the reason.  “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (1 Samuel 3:7).  Samuel did not recognize God because Eli was still teaching him about God.  Now, with regards to Saul, clearly, the word of the Lord also had not been previously revealed to him.  So, what about the men walking to Emmaus?  Had the word of the Lord been revealed to them?  Scripture tells us that the men were followers of Jesus and had hoped that “He was the one that was going to redeem Israel.” 

Even though the Emmaus travelers were followers of Jesus, they too were “blind” to His presence because they did not fully understand Scripture.  Their lack of understanding prompted this response from Jesus.  “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25).  Perhaps the word “blind” could be inserted for “foolish”? 

The people in both the Emmaus and Demascus stories have issues of blindness.  After Saul encounters God, he loses his sight for three days until a disciple by the name of Ananias lays hand on him and heals him. The two men on the road to Emmaus, were already followers of Jesus, but their spiritual sight was poor, so they failed to recognize Jesus as they walked.  

Now, let’s go back to the number of times that God called Samuel – three.  Numbers have symbolic purposes in the Bible, and number three stands out as one of the more prominent numbers featured in Scripture.  Scripture tells us that the journey to Emmaus occurred three days after Jesus was crucified, which is the same number of days that Saul lost his sight after his encounter with God.  You may recall that Jesus rose three days after His crucifixion.   There are other examples in Scripture regarding the number three but perhaps none more significant than the three in one Holy trinity.

I have spent more time journeying to Emmaus than Damascus. God will often move on my heart in a gradual, incremental, almost imperceptible or “Emmaus” way, and looking back after days or even years I might eventually realize that my risen Lord was truly walking with me.  Or after a moving sermon or a powerful small group session, I might look back and realize that God was using somebody else’s tongue to talk to me.  Your calling may not come at one of the extremes (Emmaus or Damascus) but rather somewhere in between.  Just as each of us are uniquely called into ministry by our baptism and profession of faith, we are also uniquely called and gifted to our unique positions within the Body. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for walking with us.  We ask of You what the Psalmist asked – “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”   Forgive us as we fail to recognize you and remind us of the promise of the Psalmist – “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.”  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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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).

 

I think we all want peace.  Even the sound of the word is pleasing to the ear.  We differ in how we go about trying to achieve peace.   For some, peace is a quiet night with no children and no phone calls.  Others may find peace by drinking coffee in the morning or wine in the evening.  You might find your peace by owning a home security system and a gun!

The kind of peace the world gives is temporary. It has been reported that in the last 300 years, about 260 peace treaties have been signed—and almost none of them were kept.  As Christians, we not only receive the forgives of our sins and life everlasting, but we also receive His peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, emphasis added).  Jesus specifies the type of peace that He is giving.  This is not your typical peace, not conditional peace, and not earthly peace.  This is His peace. 

The peace that comes from the world is totally circumstantial.  If your peace is contingent on your income, home security system, or coffee, then what happens to your peace when these things are gone?  The peace that comes from a life lived in Jesus and for Jesus is different.  His peace is not contingent on your actions.  There is no quid pro quo or contract.  Jesus gives you a different kind of peace.  The Bible calls it “peace . . . which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The peace of Jesus is certainly hard to understand from a secular perspective.  His grace allows us to be at peace when there’s no obvious or visible reason why we should be at peace.  I have a good friend that lost his house and contents due to a flood a few years ago.   His life was in chaos, but for some unexplainable reason, He was at peace.  His confidence and peace at this terrible time was a strong witness to his faith.

The peace that Jesus offers us today is the same peace that He offered the woman at the well in John 4.  Jesus told the woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). 

Any areas of our lives that are full of worry, anxiety, or fear represent areas that we have not yielded to Jesus.  This could include our finances, marriage, job, etc.  Whatever it is, we have to let it go in order for God to take control.  You may have heard the expression “let go and let God.”  I think this is great, but I would make one slight change- “let go, let God, and rest in His peace.”

The right next step is to pray the prayer, or one of your own, below and then follow up with your pastor.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for your love and grace.  Send your Holy Spirit to search me and reveal any areas of my life that I have not surrounded to you.  Grant me the courage and wisdom to yield everything to you so I can truly rest in your peace.  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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Real Faith Has Works

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What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14 NIV).

 

Most surveys show that the vast majority of Americans self-identify as Christians and have faith in God.  This is great, but James 2:14 puts this in context.  “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”

In my Bible, the heading for Hebrews 11 reads “Faith in Action” and the first verse of chapter 11 teaches, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

I can tell you that I am a great baseball pitcher, but that self-identification does not necessarily make it true.  James 2:14 is teaching us what is the use of telling others that you have faith if it is not reflected in how you live and what actions you take? 

Please do not be mistaken and think that James is saying we are saved by our works.  Scripture is very clear in this regard that we are saved by faith in Jesus, nothing more and nothing less.  Galatians 2:16 reads, “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”  Our actions are a natural manifestation of our faith.  They are the outward fruit.  “For the tree is known and recognized and judged by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).

Real faith takes action but does so out of love, not obligation or to curry favor with God.  Real faith is different from pseudo faith because the former is active in ministry outside the church and the later simply attends church every Sunday. 

Scripture contains thousands of promises from God to us.  We cannot claim these promises with an insincere faith.  We cannot expect God to hear our prayers if they are not offered in true faith.  And “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). 

So how do we know if we have real faith?  We must look at our actions and see if they are in agreement with our beliefs.  One of the most important things we can do in life is an honest self-evaluation.  It is also one of the more difficult tasks we can do.  But if we can successfully do this, then we can live out the Faith in Action of Hebrews 11.  The right next step is to sit down with your pastor or Christian friend and help them guide you through the process.  You will not regret this decision.

Prayer:  Dear God, Help us to maintain at least the faith of a mustard seed on our darkest days.  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 Pillars Of A Powerful Prayer

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“Then [Nehemiah] said, ‘O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps His covenant of unfailing love with those who love Him and obey His commands, listen to my prayer! . . . I confess that we have sinned against you . . . Please remember what you told your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored” . . . Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me'” (Nehemiah 1:5-11 NLT).

 

 

Throughout Scripture we are encouraged not to be afraid.   In fact, we are commanded to go one step further and be strong and courageous.  This is the repeated command that God gave to Joshua prior to crossing the Jordan River to begin the long-awaited conquest of the promised land of Canaan.

The command that God gave to Joshua is also His command to us today.   Our strength and courage is not from our flesh but from the Spirit.  We tap into a supernatural strength and courage when we pray.   Sadly, many Christians grow discouraged if their prayers are not answered.  God has provided us with the key to answered prayers.  If we do our part, then He has promised to do His part.  One of my favorite promises is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Since we know what is required of us for God to hear our prayers, we have the confidence to pray boldly.  Bold prayers are an important part of a bold life, and God wants us to pray boldly.  Below are a few pillars of a powerful prayer as found in Scripture.

Base your prayer on God’s character. Nehemiah started his prayer by listing God’s character traits and deeds. He prayed with confidence because he knew the nature of God.  God knows His character better than we do so we don’t need to state them for His benefit.  When we say, “You will never leave us.  You are a faithful God. You are a loving God, etc. we do this to remind ourselves of His nature.  

Confess the sins you’re aware of.  God hates sin, and sin separates us from Him.  Nehemiah confessed his sins.  Nehemiah had not been born when Israel had gone into captivity, but he included himself in the sins of his people.  Confession is essential to a bold prayer and this connection is evident in James 5:16.  “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Claim the promises of God.  Scripture is full of promises from God to us.  If we do this, He will do that.  Nehemiah prayed to the Lord, saying, “Please remember what you told your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:8).  What he was essential praying was, “God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we repent, you’d give it back to us.”  Clearly, God did not need to be reminded of what He told Moses or any of His promises.  We “remind” God of His promises, and character, as we pray in order to help us, not Him, remember His promise.

 Be very specific about what you ask for. If you want specific answers, then make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if God answered them?  Nehemiah boldly and specifically prayed for success.   The prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10 is another example of a bold and specific prayer. “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”

Let’s follow Nehemiah’s example when we pray. Proclaim God’s character, confess your sins, claim God’s promises, and make specific requests.  After basing your prayer on the example of Nehemiah, then wait based on the example of the Psalmist.  I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1).   We live boldly, pray boldly, and we also wait boldly.

Prayer:  Dear God, Your mercy and love are unfailing.  We confess our sins and ask for your pardon.  We ask for healing of our lands in the form of an immediate and permanent end to COVID-19.  We ask for this to happen in such a way that it can only be attributed to your grace and providence.  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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Confession Leads To Freedom From Sin

todd shupe

Confession Leads To Freedom From Sin

todd shupe

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

 

I have talked with many people over the years who feel they have either committed an unforgivable sin in their past or are struggling with sin in the present.  With regards to past “unforgivable” sins, the unpardonable sin is not some particularly grievous sin committed by a Christian before or after accepting Christ, nor is it thinking or saying something terrible about the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is deliberately resisting the Holy Spirit’s witness and invitation to turn to Him until death ends all opportunity.  I believe that if you reject Jesus until your last day but on that last day “you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9).  Your declaration must be sincere, and God knows what is in our hearts.

God understands that we are all struggling with sin.  God not only wants the mistakes we’ve made in the past, He wants the ones we’re making in the present.  Yours may be different than mine, but we all fall short of His glory and righteousness.  Are you drinking too much? Are you unfaithful in marriage?  Do you struggle with an immoral lifestyle?  Regardless of the sin, 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

The good news is the Good News!  “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38).  In the Old Testament, the forgiveness of sin required blood, often in the form of a burnt offering.  Today, sin still requires blood, and that debt has been paid in full by blood, the blood of Jesus.   His blood makes us holy!  “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22).

Freedom from sin begins with confession.  The lack of forgiveness brings shame, loneliness, and death.  Freedom from sin ends with Jesus.  After confession, we repent and turn away from the sin and toward He who was without sin.  Romans 6:23 speaks to the duality of sin and life.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, start with your bad moments. And while you’re there, give God your mad moments. There’s an old story about a man that was bitten by a dog, and when he learned the dog had rabies, he started to write. The doctor said, “There’s no need for you to make a will—you’ll be fine.” “Oh, I’m not making a will,” he said. “I’m making a list of all the people I want to bite.” God wants that list, but He wants you to leave it at the cross.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the free gift of victory over sin and death as provided through Jesus.  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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Entertaining Angels by Showing Hospitality

todd shupe

Entertaining Angels by Showing Hospitality

todd shupe

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV).

 

When we think of hospitality, we often think of the custom of feeding family, friends, and neighbors in our homes or even providing them a room in our home for a brief visit.  Many churches have hired a dedicated staff person to train the church members on how to staff hospitality to each other and particularly new members. 

The writers of the New Testament, however, were working with a significantly different definition of hospitality.  The ancient custom of hospitality involved welcoming strangers, often travelers, into one’s home while offering them provisions and protection.  Hospitality to strangers in the first century could be dangerous.   How many of us would open our homes to a stranger and provide just a single meal, let alone lodging for a night?   Many of us will not do this because we are concerned for the safety of our families and ourselves.  However, in the books of Luke and Acts we see an appeal for Jesus’ disciples, and ourselves, to practice hospitality in their lives and ministries.   Naturally, I think that today we should use some discernment and caution.  For example, I do not think we are called to offer hospitality to a dangerous person because we are called to provide and protect our families (1 Timothy 5:8) and ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Early Christians understood the blessing on both parties by extending hospitality to those in need.  An absence of hospitality would mean an absence of love for God and neighbor. This perspective is especially vivid in Luke’s writings. Luke provides an emphasis on hospitality in three passages: Luke 10:1-16, Luke 24:13-35, and Acts 9:43-10:48.

In Luke 10:1-16, Luke describes Jesus’ commissioning of seventy disciples who will travel in pairs to various towns to spread the news about his message and ministry. Jesus instructs the seventy to depend on the hospitality of the townspeople they encounter.

For instance, He prohibits them from carrying their own provisions. Instead, the blessing and peace of God (blessing) will rest upon those hosts who extend hospitality to Jesus’ servants (Luke 10:4-6).  Always remember this – blessed is the giver and receiver of hospitality.

He forbids the disciples, after they enter the home of a gracious host, from moving about from house to house. Rather than seeking more prestigious or luxurious accommodations, they are to accept willingly the provisions they have received (Luke 10:7). Finally, Jesus commissions the seventy-two to minister to their host families and communities. Rather than merely receiving provisions and protection, the traveling missionaries are to meet the needs they encounter along the way and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. “Whoever listens to you listens to me,” Jesus concludes, “and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (10:16). Jesus realized that some would not welcome His disciples so He told them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:17), so is Christianity without hospitality.  The townspeople’s response to His disciples (strangers) served as their response to Jesus himself. Today, our response to the “least of our brothers and sisters” is our witness and stands as what we do for Him (Matthew 25:40-45).  Perhaps this is no more evident than in prison ministry. 

Jesus required His disciples to participate in the ancient custom of hospitality (Luke 10:4). He wanted them to be dependent upon their hosts, who are likely unaware of Jesus’ ministry. Their willingness to stay in the homes of people who are not yet followers of The Way opened a door for God’s blessing and work in their lives and communities.

Jesus demanded that His disciples be grateful to their hosts and content with what they have been provided. They must not seek out wealthier or more prestigious hosts within the same community. To carry out their mission properly, Jesus’ disciples formed deep and loyal bonds with those of all classes whom they encounter along the way. Hospitality is not just showing kindness to people that look like you, live in your neighborhood, and attend your church. The right next step is to be mindful that hospitality also includes showing kindness to those that will never be able to return the favor. Jesus taught that by doing this, “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).

 Prayer:  Dear God:  Forgive us for the times we have denied hospitality to others.  Help us to remember that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we also do for you.  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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Joy IS Contingent On A House

todd shupe

Joy IS Contingent On A House

todd shupe

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This concept of home is essential to the proper mindset of a Christian and is beautifully described in the NLT translation of Hebrews 13:14.  “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”  This begs the question.  Where is “home”?   Jesus was modeling proper focus for us when He said, “My Father’s house has many rooms” (John 14:2).

Your focus on an earthy house or heavenly house is a matter of control.  If your focus is on an earthly house, then perhaps you are  seeking control as a pathway to power.  True power comes when you surrender to God anything you’ve been trying to control. The Bible says, “Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). This surrender is the key to what we all seek – a life of serenity.  If you are struggling with control issues, the right next step is to pray the serenity prayer below. 

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

Meet the Author

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

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Where Do You Look For Help?

Where Do You Look For Help?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).

All members of the Body of Christ are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and each of u have unique gifts that serve to build up the Body.   Nobody can really live alone.  We all need assistance in some form.     

In times of need, we are faced with a great question – where do we turn for help?  The answer will reveal who we trust.  The Psalmist modeled the proper response for us by writing, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

In Louisiana, the first step to make recipes is to make a roux.  There is also a right first step when dealing with a problem – take it to God.  The second step is to wait for His response.  For me, that often means time in Scripture, prayer, and talking with Christian friends and knowing that God might use them to speak truth in love to me.  I try to be intentional and pray blessings on my friends and a personal prayer for myself for ears to hear the often “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12).

By the way, for a reminder regarding the blessing of praying for your friends, go read the book of Job and pay particular attention to Chapter 42.  “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

Golly, how we tend to go everywhere else for help. Maybe to the bar, to the counselor, to the self-help book, or to the friend next door.  Now, it is very important to understand that God can use anything in this fallen world to provide us with help.  He very well might send us to see a friend for help, but it is so important that we do not assume we know His plan and deny ourselves the worship opportunity that is always present through prayer.  Remember this – God is God and we are not. 

How did Jesus respond when He was on the cross and in need of help?  Did he ask for help from the crowd, His disciples, or His mother?  The first one to hear His fear was His Father in heaven.  Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, take away this cup of suffering” (Luke 22:42).

Much earlier in Biblical times, David was urging the fearful as he penned the well-known 23rd Psalm.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).  David knew that he needed help, and he also knew exactly where to find it.  He linked fear with faith and kept his focus on the blessed assurance that only comes from the Hand of the Father.  How blessed would we be if we would simply go and do the same?

 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete, that comes along side of us to comfort and counsel.  Forgive us for failing to go to You first for help.  Forgive us for taking our plans to you and asking for Your blessing.  Create in us a clean heart and a right spirit that seeks unity with You and Your children.  We love you and need you.  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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    Open My Eyes

    Open My Eyes
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The Precious Gift of Time

The Precious Gift of Time

“Use your time in the best way you can” (Colossians 4:5 ICB). 

I recently had a nice visit with a young man at my church.  He told me that he was about to graduate high school and study engineering in college so he could “make a lot of money.”  I told him there is nothing wrong with making a lot of money.  I reminded him that the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley, had a profound statement in this regard.  Wesley stated, “Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.”

Clearly, Wesley was teaching that money should be used wisely and ultimately as a tool, along with our time and talents, to help build up the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).  However, I think there is deeper component to Wesley’s quote which is related to the goal of my young friend.  Money is not our greatest resource.  We can always make more money. 

Time is our greatest resource.  Colossians 4:5 says, “Use your time in the best way you can.”  Time is our most precious resource.  It’s far more important and precious than money. We can get more money, but we can’t get more time.  In the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18), the king demanded payment from a servant that owed him a substantial amount of money.  The servant asked for the gift of more time.  Do people on their death bed ask for more time or money? 

Our Lord and Savior had much to say, and model, about time.  Jesus was mission minded.  I am drawn to His words to His mother at the wedding festival in Cana. “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).  Matthew 10:14 further supports the idea that our time is precious.  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  As Christians we are called into ministry, but we are not called to waste our time. 

Jesus used His time to prepare Himself and all of us for eternity.  We would be wise to use our time with the understanding that all which can be seen is temporary and is only useful in preparing us for eternity. 

The parable of the talents is widely interpreted as encouragement for wise investment of our resources.  Do we have a greater resource than our time?  The reward in heaven will surely be great for those that have wisely used their time on earth!

The Bible teaches how we should use our time: “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).   Your work, and mine, is the Great Commission.  We each have a unique role to play which can be discerned through study, prayer, and talking with your pastor. 

I have long felt that nothing brings more joy to the enemy than to see people with great potential for ministry wasting their time on tasks that have little or no impact on the Kingdom.  The right next step for all of us is to look at how we spend our time and then ask, “What is the impact of my activities in terms of bringing others to eternal life?  Then, join me to use our answers to prayerfully refocus our time.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the precious gift of time.  Help us to discern Your will for our time and to boldly partner with you in ministry to live a life in You, through You, and for You.  Then, may we so blessed as to hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant” upon seeing Your face at the time of our healing.  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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Tell Yourself The Truth

Tell Yourself The Truth

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 NLT).

If you were raised in a Christian home, you were surely taught the importance of honesty and always telling the truth.   I feel that honesty and respect go hand in hand.  You are not respecting someone if you are not telling them the truth. 

It is sad that we often fail to extend the same courtesy to ourselves that we extend to others.  When we believe negative thoughts about ourselves, we are lying to ourselves about who we are and Whose we are.  I know that sometimes we just simply can’t get a negative thought out of our mind. We sometimes knowingly engage in self-defeating behavior and thoughts.  

Our mind is a battlefield where the enemy sows seeds of doubt and insecurity.  Romans 7:23 says, “I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body.”  I consider these attacks a back-handed compliment because it indicates that the devil knows you have great potential to make a positive impact on the Body of Christ.  The seeds of doubt are sown to   neutralize your witness and ministry. 

Demonic thoughts are intended to rob us of our joy.  Jesus taught us how to live not to have earthly joy but so that we may have His joy.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11, emphasis added).

During times of attack, I remind myself that serving the Lord is a conscious decision and each day I need to rebuke in His name all that is evil, including evil thoughts, and recommit myself to Him, His ministry, and His will.   Evil is ever present in this fallen world. Scripture teaches us how to react to all forms of evil.  “Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

I cannot emphasize enough the importance and power of memorizing Scripture and speaking it out loud during times of self-doubt.  Speak the Word with confidence and claim the promise it contains!  Hebrews 4:12 teaches the benefit of the Word.  “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

You have the power to change the way that you think.  It is not easy, but it begins by claiming the familiar promise found in Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  One of the things you can do through Him is to not believe every thought in your head. 

Our mind frequently lies to us. Just because you think or feel something is true doesn’t make it true.  Proverbs 14:12 speaks to this truth.  “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”  It is important to realize that your mind and your emotions often lie to you.  This doesn’t mean you are anything less than human.  As Christians we are certainly not immune to adversity.  A large step in our spiritual growth—becoming more like Jesus—is learning to discern the true author of our thoughts and therefore know which thoughts are true and false.  The Apostle Paul knew the importance of properly focusing our thoughts as evidenced by His encouragement to the church in Philippi.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

As a mature Christian you must ask yourself a few questions.  Who is the author of this thought?  Is this thought true?   If you have any doubt about your true identity and value, then spend some time in Ephesians Chapter 1.

No matter how far you go in your spiritual walk, your old, sinful nature will keep trying to take control of your thoughts. The battle is real and constant.  You have to learn to question your thoughts, not just one time but throughout your day and throughout your life!

Scripture teaches, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Don’t you think your thoughts are included under “all things”?  A big part of holding fast to “what is good” is thinking about the things listed in Philippians 4:8.   Be blessed.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for your promises to us as found in Scripture.  Forgive us for failing to claim these promises and giving credence to negative self-thoughts.  Help us to boldly and courageously rebuke in Your name all thoughts that do not bring honor and glory to your name. 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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Thank you for visiting. We trust that you have enjoyed reading our articles.

Liked this post?

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  • Complete The Mission



    Complete The Mission
    “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24 NIV).As men, we love projects.  We love to build something and to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  Most men enjoy working with their hands and tend not be comfortable speaking to a group of strangers, especially about their faith.  We have many large tasks that we want to accomplish in life – pay off the mortgage, raise our children…
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  • Thank God for THE False Accusation


    Thank God for THE False Accusation

    Thank God for THE False Accusation
    “Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”   (1 Peter 3:16 ESV).
    Have you ever falsely accused somebody of something and later discovered that your accusation was false?  Perhaps you accused your spouse of eating the last slice of pie only later to find out that it was one of the kids?  I think we all have both made and received false accusations.  It is part of the human condition.
    Rarely do we give thanks for false accusations.  The more serious the…
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