Sin Is Never Private

Sin Is Never Private

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3 NIV).

 

One thing we all have in common is that we are sinners and all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).   Most people work very hard to keep their sin a secret.  Indeed, we may be successful at keeping most, or even all, of our sins secret but it is foolish to think that sin is private.  Some sins are revealed here on earth, but many are not. 

Our entire lives will be judged when we die, and most assuredly even the sins that remained private on earth will be revealed.  Scripture teaches that everyone who has ever lived will be there (heaven) in their resurrected bodies. Jesus separates the sheep on His right; the goats on His left (Matthew 25:32, 33). There is but one judgment day (Revelation 11:18). Both the saved and lost will be judged (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Perhaps the most sobering verse in the Bible is Numbers 43:23, “You may be sure that your sin will find you out.”

Our sin also has consequences here on earth.  All of our actions, good or bad, are going to affect both directions on the cross.   Our sins separate us from God, which is the vertical axis.  And all of our actions, including sins, affect other people, directly or indirectly.

Not all sins are due to commission.  Some sins are an act of omission.  If a person that regularly plugs into God through worship, prayer, study, service, and tithing and then stops, there will be a change in this person.  The “lens” on how they view the world will change as manifested in how they react to people and situations and how they reflect (or don’t) the Fruits of the Spirit.  They have omitted God from their life and are no longer connected to the Vine.  A person that is not plugged in, does have spiritual power or desire to fight sin.  Romans 14:7 teaches about our connectivity to each other. “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.” 

A lot of people will say, “What I do with my life is my business.  As long as I’m not hurting anybody, why should anyone else care?”  Our sins are hurting other people. God made us to be connected to other people.  We are one Body and what we do and say always has an effect on others.  We hurt ourselves and distance ourselves from God with sin, particularly unrepentant sin.  A sinful life limits our ability to reach our potential, the impact we can have on the Kingdom, and the blessing that comes from a life lived in and for our Lord and Savior.

There is only one way to move past the sin that clings so tightly.  Confess it, repent from it, and abide in the love of the Father.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the victory that we have over sin and death through the blood of Your Son.  Send your Spirit to reveal to us the sin that separates us from You and give us the strength to repent from that sin so that we may grow closer to You on this earth and be presented holy and blameless to You upon the day that we are Healed.  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 a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Country Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Additionally, he’s the author of the inspiring book “Fathering A Special Needs Child.” Todd also enjoys filling the pulpit for pastors to share the Good News of our Lord and Savior.

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How Should We “Tell It?”

How Should We “Tell It?”

“Love . . . always looks for the best.”  (1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG).

I have been told by my close friends that I sometimes have unrealistic expectations, both of myself and of others.  It’s not that I expect perfection of any human, especially myself, but I do have high expectations.  Of course, this can, and often does lead to disappointment, but every once in a while, it leads to something wonderful, and that is the basis for my continuing high expectations.  I want to show a connection between our expectations and our words or how we “tell it.”

We all know people that “tell it like it is,” right?  They tell the honest and ugly truth, which can be great, but can also be a weapon if the truth is spoken absent of love.  Indeed, Jesus identified Himself as truth in John 14:6 by stating, “I am the way, the truth and the life (emphasis added).”

In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he was concerned about dissension in the church, which can be caused by how we “tell it.”  Paul was certainly aware of the Old Testament warning in Proverbs 18:21. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Paul was focused on our unity in the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, and Christian maturity.  Paul’s letter links the importance of truth and love when we speak.  A key verse from Ephesians Chapter 4 reads:  “Instead, speaking the truth in lovewe will grow to become in every respect the mature Body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15, emphasis added).   Speaking the truth in love is a fruit of Spiritual maturity. 

When we have high expectations of someone, you don’t tell it like it is.  We can speak the truth in love and tell it how it could be. What does that mean?  It’s means you believe in what God wants to do in and through that person, and you affirm God’s purpose for them, and hopefully they will do the same for you.  All of this should be done truthfully, lovingly, and privately.    This is Proverbs 27:17 “iron sharpens iron” and love in action.

An excellent example of the good fruit of telling it like it could be comes from Bruce Wilkinson, author and teacher. Years ago, he was a new professor at Multnomah University, and at the first faculty meeting, he received his class assignments. Another professor saw his sheet and said, “Bruce, you’ve been given two section A classes. They’re the brightest students in the university. They’re really engaged and a joy to teach. You’re fortunate to have section A students in your first year.”

Bruce discovered that to be true—he absolutely loved teaching those kids.  They were so much more fun to teach than the other classes. They were smarter and asked better questions.  At the end of the year, Bruce told his department supervisor, “Man, I sure hope I get the section A classes again next year!” The supervisor told him, “Bruce, there is no section A. We canceled that program six years ago.”

When Bruce went back and checked his grade books, he found that those “section A” classes may not have been advanced placement, but they received higher grades and wrote more thoughtful term papers than his other classes. Bruce realized—because he expected them to be better students—they rose to the challenge.   He had high expectations because his supervisor told him like it could be regarding his students.  I would argue that Bruce was not lied to but rather he was told how it could be.  Then, he accordingly established his expectations and what “could be” became reality. 

My mother gave me some parenting advice many years ago.  She told me that most children are equal in terms of intelligence and capability.  The only difference is the level of expectations of them from their teachers and parents. 

Throughout our lives we all will shape the people around us by our expectations of them, and the reciprocal is also true.  On my better days, I expect the best from others, and it is at these brief moments that I am hopefully reflecting the lasting love of Jesus.  You may ask how expectations are connected to love? 

I stand steadfast on the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth.  “Love . . . always looks for the best” (1 Corinthians 13:7, emphasis added).  Lasting love is forward-looking, optimistic, and bathed equally in truth, hope, and grace.   

I think the greatest, and most difficult, lesson that we can learn in life is how to love others as Jesus loved others.  It is hard to love some people, and the truth is I cannot do it.  However, you and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13).  If we let God’s love flow through us, we can tell it like it should be by speaking the truth in love.   

I love hearing success stories from people that were raised in disadvantaged situations, but somebody was in their life on a daily basis to mentor and inspire them.  The focus of the child shifts from the current situation to what could be through hard work and the favor of our Lord.

Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”  I think the Mindset of Jesus was one that tuned out the voices of the flesh, society, and the enemy and tuned in the Voice of God.  As we grow and mature as Christians, we can have the same mindset as Jesus, and we can tell it like it “should be.”  Jesus expects our best.  God sets a very high expectation of us in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  

This is not an unrealistic expectation but rather a command regarding how it “should be.”  Indeed, this is how it “will be” when the Son presents us to the Father, if on earth we havedeclared with our mouths, “Jesus is Lord,” and believed in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead.  Telling it like it “should be” is inspirational and the key to unlocking the chains of low expectations.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the gift of our tongues.  Forgive us for the times we dishonor You by speaking words of death regarding other members of the Body.  Send your Holy Spirit to reveal to us the sin that clings so tightly and help us repent of anything that separates us from You.  Give us a new heart and Your Spirit so that others may see You and come to know You as Your Holy Spirit guides us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with You.  Amen and amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Country Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Additionally, he’s the author of the inspiring book “Fathering A Special Needs Child.” Todd also enjoys filling the pulpit for pastors to share the Good News of our Lord and Savior.

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The Heart of the Problem is A Problem of the Heart

The Heart of the Problem is A Problem of the Heart

Sin lurks deep in the hearts of the wicked, forever urging them on to evil deeds” (Psalm 36:1 TLB).

The human heart can be a dark place. When God is not pursued, and people declare themselves as Lord the result is dark.   Yes, the light overcomes the darkness, but darkness rules where there is no light.  We become savages. We victimize the vulnerable, spread gossip, and give in to every sinful desire of the flesh.

Dark hearts lead to a dark society where people suppress their better selves and rise based on intimidation, bribery, and blackmail.   A dark society rewards power and force and downplays the Fruits of the Spirit. 

Jesus taught, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander” (Matthew 15:19).  The heart of the problem, is simply a problem of the heart.  We truly need a new heart and a renewed spirit that seeks Him above all else.

To be clear, in the Christian theology, humanity is treasured, priceless, and is destined for Glory. We are created in God’s image. But we have squandered our inheritance and dishonored God by ignoring Him and flowing another voice.  Yet there is hope!  And his name is Jesus.  He came to rescue us from us.

I love the book of Genesis because it is so foundational to Judeo-Christian theology.  It is in this book that the “first mention” often occurs, which is when a word or term is first used.  The introductory use is often filled with foundational instruction and understanding.  As with all Scripture, it is always important to remember the context and to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. 

Most Jews and Christians will point to Genesis 3 as when sin first entered the world.  The serpent came to sew seeds of doubt with his typical goal to deceive, divide, and destroy. 

Yes, sin entered the world in Genesis 3, but the word “sin” does not appear until Genesis 4.  The first teaching on the dynamics of sin is in the context of Cain’s bitterness towards his brother Abel, and the fact that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, and Cain’s wasn’t.  It’s in this context that we have the first mention of sin. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?   If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’  While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:6-8).

Cain was just warned by God that sin is imminent in his life, “crouching at your door,” its intention is “to have you,” and provided an escape route, “you must rule over it.”

I suspect that the Apostle Paul had Genesis 4 in mind when he wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth.  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13, emphasis added).

So, how do we “rule over sin”?  Romans 7:21-24 provides insight.  “I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”  This “other power” that is at work in Paul is the same other power that is at work in all of us.  In the book, “The Four Voices: Taking Control of the Conversation in Your Head” by Patrick Morley, founder of Man in the Mirror and author, he identifies the four voices inside all of our heads as God, the enemy, our flesh, and society. 

Sin is so much more than “a mistake” but rather the result of saying no to God and yes to one of the other three voices.  Sin is just like the enemy in that both seek to deceive, divide, and destroy you and me.  Sin searches for our soft spots, which are typically one or more of the following:  pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. 

Throughout Scripture, God demands blood for the redemption of sin, and that is as true today as it was in the beginning.  The only difference is our sin has been paid by the blood of Jesus on Calvary.  Colossians 1:22 (emphasis added) reads, “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 (emphasis added).”

Jesus wants us to be reconciled to Him and died for this purpose – to preset us holy to God.  Our free will is a two-edged sword.  We are free to earnestly repent of our sins or not.

Romans 6:22-23 tells us that each of us will ultimately end up in heaven or hell even though we have been “set free of sin”.  “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.   For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (emphasis added)”  Please note that a “gift” has not fulfilled its intended purpose if it is rejected by its intended recipient.  The recipient of each and every gift has free will to accept or reject any gift. 

Some people think that if the blood of Jesus covers their sin, then they do not need to repent of their sin.  Matthew 18:18 goes directly to the problem of unrepented sin.  Jesus taught, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  In short, if you are bound by sin on earth, so shall you be similarly bound in heaven. 

Repenting from sin is much, much deeper than saying “I’m sorry” or feeling regret for our words, thoughts, or actions.  True repentance is a sacred, holy, and private conversation in the presence of the Holy Spirit and is completed by confessing the sin to the Holy Spirit and asking for His help to literally turn your focus away from that sin and toward your Lord and Savior. 

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul writes, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”  True repentance from our soul bears fruit that is seen by God and leads towards reconciliation and salvation. God wants us in righteous relationship with Him and sin separates us from Him.  The blood of Jesus will cover our repented sins.  The unrepented sinner does not listen to the Shepard’s voice on earth, and their salvation is a matter of theological debate.

Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:21-23 of the perils that await those that “practice lawlessness.” 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.   Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’   And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Jesus only gave us two laws.  He told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”   If you are living in unrepentant sin, ask yourself this one question.  Am I loving God by living in unrepentant sin? 

We have free will to repent or not.  Choose wisely.   

Prayer:  Dear good and gracious God, Thank you for your love, grace, and mercy.  Thank you for Jesus and the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting that is available to us through Him.  Send Your Holy Spirit upon each of us to search us and reveal everything that separates us from You.  Help us to wisely use our free will to earnestly and sincerely repent of the sins that Your Spirit has revealed to us.  Amen and amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Country Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Additionally, he’s the author of the inspiring book “Fathering A Special Needs Child.” Todd also enjoys filling the pulpit for pastors to share the Good News of our Lord and Savior.

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Will I See My Pets in Heaven?

Will I See My Pets in Heaven?

’And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between Me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’ So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between Me and all life on the earth’” (Genesis 9:12-17 NIV).

 Pets are good for humans.  They provide love, joy, and companionship so we know they are good.  James 1:17 teaches us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights.”  So, pets are from God, and they are very much good.  Humans that are wise will take actions regarding pets that honors God.

I think many of us have wondered if we will see our pets in Heaven.  To answer this question, we can determine what God values by reading His word to see what He values.    It is noteworthy to me that God instructed Noah to load his arc with animals, not plants, even though plants were created earlier than plants in Genesis 1 and 40 days of flooding would certainly create anaerobic conditions that would certainly kill all plants and animals besides fish.  According to Genesis 7:8-9, “Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.”  God created and valued/values animals and they are included in His covenant with man in Genesis 9.

Most birds are not pets and are not given much consideration by society.  However, God values all of His animals.  Matthew 6:26 addresses this by teaching, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  The importance of “mere birds” is also found in Matthew 10:29.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”

I have been blessed to have had so many pets in my life.  As a young boy, I learned the Creation Story and animals are most certainly part of Creation.  Psalm 50:10-11 reads, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine.”  I also learned that animals were put here on earth for companionship and a food source, but the earth and all plants and animals on the earth belong to God, and as such we dishonor God if we abuse His earth or His animals.  I support the wise and humane use of animals, but I am equally opposed to the misuse and abuse of animals.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught that humans are stewards of—and responsible for the care of—God’s creation. When they failed to protect His perfect creation, humans sinned against God, and when pain and suffering then entered the world, animals had to endure it, too. The bond God had created was broken, and humans’ exploitation of and cruelty to animals began. Wesley spoke with anticipation of a new creation in which God would restore animals to their intended glory.

 

Martin Luther, who founded the Lutheran church, held a view similar to Wesley’s, saying, “In Paradise there was complete harmony between man and animals; one day again that harmony will be restored and all creation will be made anew as Christ will be in all and all.”

Scripture is rich in describing the Paradise that awaits Christians upon our Healing.  We all look forward to seeing the Father’s Face as the Son presents us as perfect, clean and without sin.  I am confident that any Perfect resting place for me will also include all of my beloved pets from throughout the years. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of pets.  Their unconditional love, companionship, and goodness is a constant reminder to us that they belong to You as do we.  Help us to be good stewards of all pets and all animals and to make decisions regarding all of Your creatures that bring honor and glory to You.  Amen!

Meet the Author

We welcome your comments below.

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Community Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Creating And Enforcing A Boundary Does Not Make You A Donkey

Creating And Enforcing A Boundary Does Not Make You A Donkey

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  (Genesis 2:15-17 NIV).

All was well with God’s creation on earth for the entirety of the first two chapters of Genesis.  Then, the story turns as we failed to obey His instructions, and the rest of the Bible is His loving actions to bring us back into relationship with Him.  The fall and exit from the Garden of Eden was due to our failure as humans to honor His rules.  Another word for rules is boundaries.  God established a boundary regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Once that boundary was broken, Adam and Eve were no longer welcome in the Garden and we all today deal with those consequences in the form of pain, physical death, and toiling for food. 

Speaking of boundaries, I recently read a good book on the subject by Lysa TerKejurst entitled, “Good Boundaries and Goodbyes:  Lovoing Others WIthout Losing the Best of Who You Are.”

You my know her from her appearances on K-LOVE radio and her Proverbs 31 ministry. In the book she talk about the pain she experienced when her hsuband had violated the sanctity of their marriage and she subseuqnetly instilled boundaries.  When the boundaries were broken, she enforced them and filed for divorce.

She now must deal with the snipers in her life that have launched a whisper campaign against her.  How could a Proverbs 31 woman divorce her husband.  God hates divorce so why would she do this?  Why not show love instead of drawing up boundaries.  Why is she trying to control him with these boundaries?

I think it is important to understand that our God is a God of boundaries.  He has established boundaries on us and very likely understands the need for us to establish boundaries on others if we are to love ourselves as we love Him.  We can, and should, still love those in our life with whom we have placed boundaries, but now we do so in a different manner.  One that is healthy for all parties and respects and honors God. 

Some of us do not honor the speed limit, and the consequence of failing to obey that boundary is a speeding ticket.  It is natural to try to blame “the system” for the ticket but the real fact is we were speeding, we failed to honor the boundary, and we will suffer the consequences.  In rural areas, a no trespassing sign is fairly common.  The landowner is not a donkey because he wants to keep people off of his land.  The property line is the boundary.  Your trespassing, and disregard of boundaries, is done at your peril.

If a person has established a boundary in their life it is probably not because they have a desire to control somebody else.  More likely, they do have a very strong desire to enforce a boundary around the things that they hold dear, which is likely their family, their self, their ministry, and their work.   The boundary was likely instilled because somebody in word or action became a threat. Lysa wrote in her book, “Remember all the work you’ve done to draw boundaries was not about controlling someone else’s behavior. It’s about paying attention and being honest about how someone’s poor behavior and lack of responsibility is possibly controlling you. And when people close to us are acting out of control, that’s when we run the greater risk of lacking self-control. When a relationship shifts from being difficult to being destructive, it’s the right time to consider a goodbye.”

So, if we feel compelled to label the boundary setter “a donkey, unchristian, mean, controlling, psycho, etc.” because they have established a boundary and we are unwilling and/or unable to respect that boundary, then perhaps it is time for us to entertain the possibility that the true “donkey” is the one looking at us in the mirror.  Perhaps it is now time for us to do one of the most difficult, most necessary, and also most rewarding tasks that we can do as a human.  It is time to find our quiet place and invite the Holy Spirit in to search us and reveal to us all of the many times that we have failed to respect and honor this other person, and consequently have failed to respect and honor our Lord and Savior.   If this process cannot be done honestly and sincerely, then there is no need to do it.  Also, if this process is attempted without the invitation and presence of the Holy Spirit, there is no need to do it.  This is an important process, a sacred process.  This is part of our pruning and sanctification.  This is a task on our own personal road to Damascus.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the boundaries that you have placed in our lives as we know that they are for our own good.  Forgive us for the times in which we fall short of honoring your boundaries and when we fail to honor the boundaries of others.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Community Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Finding The Voice Of God

Finding The Voice Of God

A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’  Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.   So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’  Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”  (1 Samuel 3:8-10 NIV).

 

I have empathy for the young Eli in 1 Samuel 3.  The Lord audibly called out to him three times, but Eli thought the voice was from Samuel rather than God.  Why?  According to 1 Samuel 3:7, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”

Today, many people also struggle to hear the voice of our Lord.  We clearly hear the voice of our flesh, society, and the enemy, but the gentle whisper of our Lord can be hard to discern.  God is clearly speaking but unfortunately many of us are not hearing. 

Many of our questions to God are seeking a yes or a no response.  The answer is not found in a magic eight ball but rather through time spent in prayer and patiently waiting.

A “yes” response can be discerned through the Holy Spirit within us all.  A “yes” answer will give us confidence that we are proceeding in accordance with God’s will and the Spirit within us will grant us peace.  If you don’t have peace, the answer is likely “no” or “not now” but it is certainly not “yes.”

God also speaks audibly and directly from Himself as he did to Eli and on numerous occasions in Scripture.  The Voice may come out of nowhere, but you will absolutely know that it is from God.  It is a supernatural experience that is hard to explain.  Of course, any voice or word we hear must line up with Scripture so that it does not contradict something God has already spoken.

God speaks to us through Scripture.  He does not speak to us by opening the Bible and randomly place your finger on a verse.  That is kind of like the magic eight ball approach to things.  Rather, He will speak to us as we read His Word diligently and continually.  The key is to invite the Holy Spirit to be with you as you read to guide, teach, and interpret.  I like to begin my reading by asking, “What message are you teaching me”?

God is speaking to each of us.  We just need to pay attention, filter out the other voices, and patiently and expectantly wait for an answer, which will come at the perfect time.

Prayer:  Thank you for speaking to us.  Help us to hear Your voice and to quiet all other voices that do not submit to Your authority.  Forgive us for the many times that we do not listen or simply and sadly ignore Your voice.  Continue to speak to us, pursue us, and refine us.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Community Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Grapes, Giants, and God

Grapes, Giants, and God

They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.  The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’  Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it’” (Numbers 13:27-30 NIV).

 

I recently heard a story on the radio in which a study had shown that individuals that were optimistic before they began a large task were more likely to finish the task than those that had a negative attitude.  We all know that the optimist sees the glass half full, and the pessimist sees the glass half empty.  Yes, …. and the engineer says the glass has been incorrectly manufactured for this application. 

Sometimes in life the task before us seems impossible.  Some people will focus on all the obstacles to success and then not ever get started.  There are usually two different ways to approach an obstacle in life. The story of Israel’s twelve spies always helps me when I am facing an impossibility. 

In Numbers 13 Moses sends twelve spies into Canaan to explore the land. They came back and gave a glowing report of the land of “milk and honey” but were but scared to take it because it was heavily fortified, and the people were “giants.”  Caleb was among the twelve species and saw the same things as the others, but when he gave his report, he was focused on the positive attributes of the land, “the grapes,” and made no mention of any obstacles.

God called this kind of faith a “different spirit.”  “But my servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land he entered, and his descendants will take possession of it” (Numbers 14: 24, emphasis added).  Caleb knew that God wanted the Israelites to have this land (the Promised Land from Exodus 5) and any real or perceived obstacle in the way would be removed because he knew the battle belongs to the Lord.

I think we all have been in situations in which we can see and feel “the giants” around us.  It can be paralyzing, and alone we simply cannot proceed.  However, if we claim the victory of Philippians 4:13, then we can do it but only through Him.

Peace requires action.  After the others gave their pessimistic account of the situation and stirred up the crowd, Caleb “quieted the people” (Numbers 13:30).  He chose confidence over fear.  He used his words to bring peace to a chaotic situation.  You may recall Jesus using His words to rebuke a storm and saying, “Peace, be still (Mark 4:39).”  He was calm while the situation around Him was anything but calm.

Jesus told us in this life we will have trouble.  Amen?   We can either view the trouble as an obstacle or an opportunity.  Successful people chose the latter.  Caleb saw the opportunity of an “exceeding good land.”

Caleb also knew “If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us in….” (Numbers 14: 8, emphasis added).   He searched his own life by prayer to be sure there was nothing within him that was “out of alignment” with the perfect will of God.  We cannot face the giants if God is not with us.  Sin separates us from God.  John 15 is a familiar Scripture of the Vine and the branches.  God will be pleased with us, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).”  The key to “remaining in Him” is to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

The prophetic perfect tense is a literary technique used in the Bible that describes future events that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they had already happened.   Caleb supernaturally saw into the future and envisioned his enemy defeated before the battle began.  Numbers 14:9 reads, “Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us…”  This is important because the battle had not even started but yet “their protection had been removed.” 

This prophetic perfect tense is perhaps best summed up in Mark 11:24.  “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  David believed in advance of the battle that God would help him defeat the giant Goliath.  Jesus has conquered death, and He can certainly conquer walls, armor, and any real or perceived “giant.” 

I think a big part of prayer is to pray to God with gratitude for the victory before the battle.  God may not always give us what we want, but He certainly will give us what we need as promised in Philippians 4:19.  “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  If we are seeking the same things for our life as God is seeking for us, then we know that we are seeking the things that we need.  This is the message of Psalm 37:4.  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

God wants us to see the grapes each day.  If giants are present and they are trying to interfere with God’s plans, then they will surely be defeated before the first stone is cast. 

Prayer:  Thank you for the encouragement from Holy Scripture.  Help us to step out in faith and show our appreciation for whatever outcome will occur to our problem.  We know that whatever happens, You will walk with us, and somehow good will come I am from it.  Help our hearts and minds to truly understand that if You are with us, then who can stand 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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Pause At Easter And Behold Our Savior

Pause At Easter And Behold Our Savior

Easter is one of the principal holidays, or feasts, of Christianity. It marks the Resurrection of Jesus three days after His death by crucifixion.  It is a time of redemption, but we really have a poor understanding of the term.  Redemption is when somebody pays for your sins so that you can be forgiven and walk away justified. They do your time. They pay your penalty. All the things you’ve done wrong are paid for by somebody else.

That’s what Jesus Christ did for you and me.  He lived a perfect life so that his sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s judgment. All of your sins were paid for on the cross, and we celebrate this gift at Easter.  Sin has always required blood for redemption from the Father.  Now, we no longer need to make animal sacrifices because the blood of Jesus has washed us all clean.

The word “behold” appears throughout the Bible.  I think it is noteworthy when it appears in regards to Jesus.  John 1:29 reads, “One day, Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When John saw Him coming, he announced, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (emphasis added).

This was an interesting choice of words to be received by Jewish ears due the symbolism of this verse. Once a year in the Jewish faith, a perfect, spotless lamb was sacrificed at Passover to represent the redemption of the world.

John was prophetically and symbolically speaking to the crowd.  John certainly knew the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the birth of Jesus, and he also knew the divinity of his Cousin.

The term “behold” is used again in regards to Jesus when He encountered Pilate.  When the religious leaders who wanted to crucify Jesus brought Him to Pilate, the Roman governor interviewed Jesus and acknowledged that He was totally innocent: “Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him’” (Luke 23:13-14, emphasis added).  Pilate recognized that there was something special about Jesus.

Prior to handing Jesus over to be crucified, Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” (John 19:14, emphasis added).   I don’t think this was a sincere statement from Pilate since he knew that Jesus had not made a claim of earthly political power.  However, I think this statement does serve as an important reminder for us.  We should indeed behold our King but not just at Easter because we should live every day as Easter people.

The reason we would obey the words of Pilate is because John took these words and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit placed them in his Gospel.

Pilate had a choice and he made it for fleshly reasons.  Jesus also had a choice.  And although He was equal to God, He made a decision to yield to God as a sign of submission to the authority of God.

Pilate found no fault in Jesus. He didn’t see any sin or crime that Jesus should be punished for.

If you have not acknowledged that Jesus Christ has a right to be Lord over your life, what do you find wrong with Him? On what basis do you reject what He did for you? On what grounds do you reject Him as your Savior?  Perhaps you have accepted Christ into your heart, but you are unable to forgive yourself for some past sin.  If so, do you realize that you are diminishing what Jesus has done for you? 

Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit and that Spirit is inviting us each day into Holy fellowship through the invitation of Revelation 3:20.  “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (emphasis added).” 

At Easter this year, we should enjoy chocolate rabbits, easter eggs, and a nice dinner.  All of these things are fine.   However, we should also enjoy a moment to stop and “behold” the ransom that has been paid for us by our Lord and Savior. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of Easter.  Give us the wisdom and courage to live each day as Easter people.  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 Lobbyist

The Lobbyist

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).

 

There are numerous non-government organizations and companies that have a substantial lobbying presence in Washington, D.C.  An optimist would indicate that the lobbyists are there to educate lawmakers on the nuances of current or pending legislation that affects the employer of the lobbyist(s).  A pessimist would state that the lobbyists are there to unfairly influence the legislative process on current or pending legislation.  In any event, the job of the lobbyist is to try to convince those in power to take specific action based on what the lobbyist perceives to be the correct course of action.

I too am a lobbyist.  However, I have never interacted with any politicians, and the closest I have come to any politician in Washington, DC was several years ago as I walked past the White House.  I suspect that I have spent more years as a lobbyist than the vast majority of any lobbyist in Washington D.C.  My lobbying is done on a pro-bono basis – I don’t get paid.  I represent myself and have lobbied the same entity for decades upon decades.  I have an unprecedented rate of failure in my lobbying efforts, but I persist to try to craft the perfect pitch that includes passion, reason, and creativity.  I can even present a “win-win” pitch that everybody should love, right?

My “client” is God.  I suspect He smiles and shakes His head and allows me to each day make my pitch as I try to get Him on board with my plans.   On my better days, I pray to God, sometimes with wordless groans but with confidence that the Spirit will intercede for me.  On other occasions, I try to disguise my pitch as a prayer and often confuse God with Santa Claus or a vending machine.  

In the secular world, we are motivated by action and reward.  For example, if I work for this company, they will reward me with payment.  If I study hard at this school, they will reward me with a degree.  If I am nice to my neighbor, hopefully they will be nice to me. 

So, if I provide my prayers, presence, witness, gifts, and service to God does that give me special consideration when I make my prayer, or pitch, to God?  No.  The reality of the situation is that God does not always give us what we want but always gives us what we need.  And nobody knows better what we need than God.  So, the eventual answer to prayer may be no, not now, I have something different in mind, or yes. 

A more fruitful approach is to submit to God rather than try to lobby Him.  The Bible teaches that the key to submission is trusting in Him.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis added).

It is easy to trust in a God that knows all of my many, many flaws and shortcomings but still loves me enough to offer me the following promise and pathway to Him.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

My lobbying days are getting more infrequent.  I pray that yours are too.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for loving us even though we often fail to properly love, honor, and trust in You.  Forgive us for our efforts to lobby you rather than trust in You.  Help us to walk by faith and not by sight, and give us the confidence that You are always with us and will never forsake us.  Amen. 

Meet the Author

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

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The Best New Year’s Resolution

The Best New Year’s Resolution

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).

 

January is the time for New Year’s resolutions, right?  I am considering joining a gym and need to get in better physical shape.  You may seek to spend more time with family, find a new job, etc.  All of these are fine goals.  I read a recent article that indicated that most New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned or broken by January 19.  Wow! 

Most New Year’s resolutions are addressing a physical need such as my desire to get in better physical shape.  Some may address a mental need such as a desire to slow down and work less.  Regardless, we want a new self to correspond with the new year. 

Millions of books have been written about military battles in the past.  The greatest battle ever fought and the one with the most significance for each of us is being fought with or without your awareness in your very own mind.  The best way to obtain a new self is to focus on our spiritual health, and the most important component of our spiritual health is our mind because it is in our mind that we tell ourselves who we are.

 I am reading, The Four Voices, by Patrick Morley.  This is an excellent book and in it, Mr. Morley helps the reader to understand that there are four voices competing for attention in our mind:  the world, the flesh, the devil, and the Holy Spirit.  The author provides useful and practical advice on how to identify which voice is that of the Holy Spirit. 

It is important to identify the Voice of the Spirit because that allows us to renew our minds and claim the promise of Romans 12:2.  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

We all have a desire to “fit in” to society.  We typically seek to conform to the ways of the secular world.  However, if we want to be transformed, we can not also be conformed.  On earth, our fleshly tendency is to stop up treasure on earth, rather than in heaven.  On earth, we think that the first will always be first, rather in heaven where the opposite is true. 

When we conform to the world, there are many benefits with educational opportunities, employment, social advancement, etc.  However, it is important that we do not conform to the world to determine wisdom.  In the world, we determine what is wisdom in our minds.  By renewing our minds, we better understand that true wisdom comes from God and His Word. 

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 reads, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”

The best New Year’s resolution is to change the way you think.  However, please realize that you can not do this alone.  Ephesians 4:23 says, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

Renewing your thoughts begins by knowing and living the Truth.  You may already know these famous words of Jesus: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).  But did you know that the night before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed, “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth” (John 17:17).

God is the Truth and to know Him and live in Him and for Him is the only way to be complete.  The best New Year’s resolution has nothing to do with willpower.  The best New Year’s resolution is to study and live Scripture, which is Truth.

The more we get to know Jesus, the more Truth (i.e., God) we will know.  As we know more Truth, we are better able to reject the lies from other sources.  Now, we can renew our minds and with the help of the Spirit we can be transformed more into the likeness of Christ.  So, the Truth really does set you free!

Prayer:  Thank you for the Truth that is found in Scripture.  Forgive us for the times we do not seek You first and Your righteousness.  Please help us to yoke ourselves to Your Spirit to renew our minds.  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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