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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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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  • Men, What Do You Crave?



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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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  • “Four Ways To Turn Father’s Day Into A Celebration Of The Selfless Service Men Do Daily”



    “Four Ways To Turn Father’s Day Into A Celebration Of The Selfless Service Men Do Daily”
    While we’d rather see more than one day per year dedicated to recognizing the fathers in all our lives, we’ll take one and seize upon it for now.With Father’s Day just around the corner, now’s the time to start planning the best ways to mark the occasion. From family outings to intimate sit-downs with like-minded family and friends, Father’s Day is a chance to show respect, appreciation and utmost gratitude for the sacrifices our fathers have made throughout their lives and ours to better our quality…
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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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The Right Prayer Is…

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The Right Prayer Is…

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 NIV).

 

As Christians, we all know that prayer is our direct means of communication with God.  Through our prayers and petitions we communicate with God our needs, worries, and joys.  Some people have a poor prayer life because they are not certain how to pray.   What do I say?  Do I have to be alone with a candle?  Should I speak out loud? 

I feel it is much more important that we communicate with God rather than not communicate because we are paralyzed with uncertainty on how to pray.  Who you are talking to is so much more important than your words.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:8, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  Jesus then proceeds in Matthew 6 to bless us and tell us how to pray.  You may already know it as the Lord’s Prayer, which is found in Matthew 6:9-13

 

You may wonder if He already knows what I need and what I am going to say then why I should I pray?  As for me, I yearn for prayer because it is a key means to understand the One whose love for me is constant and unconditional.  My relationship with Jesus is not based on rules regarding how to pray but is based on mutual love.   Sometimes I am too tired to pray or simply too overwhelmed.   I am comforted that, “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

The Psalms are beautiful and moving prayers.   They express the range of human emotions from anger to love.   We all feel disappointed, frustrated, or with God or with others from time to time.  God wants us to take it all to Him in prayer and leave it with Him.  The enemy wants us to keep it and allow it to grow and separate us from Him.  God understands all of our emotions, and it is ok to express our anger, disappointment, or frustration with Him.  Many characters in the Bible did this.   I encourage you to read Psalm 13, Jonah 4, the Book of Job, Numbers 20, and Genesis 4 to name a few. 

 

So, what is the right prayer?  Is it the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10), or something else?  The right prayer is the one offered with confidence and thanksgiving that God already knows what you need and is already at work in delivering it to you. 

 

 

Prayer:  Dear God, We often do not know what to pray when life is so cruel.  Help us to find contentment in all circumstances.  We thank you for the Holy Spirit that intercedes for us in accordance with your perfect will.  We thank you for your son Jesus and the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.  And dear God, we thank you for always loving us and never leaving 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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  • Understanding Love Through Reading Scripture


    Understanding Love Through Reading from the Scripture

    Understanding Love Through Reading from the Scripture
    “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love”(1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV).Perhaps the most common scripture that is read at a wedding is from 1 Corinthians 13. This is beautiful scripture that defines what is — and what is not — love.   This scripture reveals the deep and unbreakable love that God has for us.   Love is the heart of the Gospel because God is love.   When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in the Law, He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all…
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  • Looking for Something Good to Taste?



    Looking for Something Good to Taste?
    “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8 NIV).
    The only thing I like better than eating food is eating food that is tasty.  We all love a tasty meal and many of us have our own unique spice combination to make a dish more appealing.  I think about all the elaborate cooking shows that are popular on television.  I too enjoy watching many of them.  Then, I consider the most significant meal that we consume is the Lord’s supper, Holy communion, Holy Eucharist, or the Blessed Sacrament.
    The consecrated body…
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  • Grace Upon Grace: An Exploration Of God’s Love And How To Receive It


    Grace Upon Grace: An Exploration Of God’s Love And How To Receive It2

    Grace Upon Grace: An Exploration Of God’s Love And How To Receive It
    “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”
    (Romans 6:14 ESV).
    We are created with a deep need to be loved.  There are two radically different kinds of love: conditional and unconditional. Conditional love involves bargaining and there are conditions that we must meet in order to receive love from others. Such conditional living is exhausting, involving a treadmill of constant doing in order to earn and maintain love.
    Unconditional love is radically different, involving a conversion of our motives. The Christian…
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Who Knows The Truth?

Who Knows The Truth?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

One of my favorite Bible studies focused on the questions of God in the Old Testament and the questions of Jesus in the New Testament.   I would not pretend to fully know the meaning behind the questions.  However, it is apparent to me that the questions are, at least in part, designed to draw the listener into a deeper state of self-examination.

I enjoy my “red letter” Bible and understand the added significance of the words of Jesus.  I am drawn to one of the questions that was posed to Jesus.  It did not come from the disciples to better understand Him.  It did not come from the Pharisees to trap him.  It did not come from any of the witnesses to His many public miracles.  It came from the Roman governor Pontius Pilate in an effort to understand “the truth.”  John 18:28-40 details the complete encounter of Jesus with Pilate.  Jesus states, “I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  Pilot responded, “What is truth?” (John 18: 37-38).

I find it particularly noteworthy that this whole discussion of truth is subsequent to an arrest of Jesus by the Jewish leaders based on false allegations.   I wonder how many times in my life I have heard allegations, rumors, or derogatory stories about someone and accepted the story as true.  Surely, some of the stories were true but again some were probably not true.  How many times did I pass these stories on to others?   We all have at times underestimated the power of our words.  Proverbs 18:21 teaches, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”   Jesus not only understood the power of our words but also their origins.   He taught, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” (Matthew 15:18).

Ephesians 6 is a well cited section of Scripture on how to use the Armor of God for spiritual attacks.   I am drawn to Ephesians 6:14, Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”  In many, but not all, situations in life there are two “people” who know the truth about a given situation – you and God.

Pilate’s question is simple but so very profound.  He was not a Jew.  He did not know the truth that Jesus was the Messiah.  The Jewish leaders were intimately familiar with the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  They had heard Jesus read the scroll and declare, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).  So, even the Jewish leaders when the truth was revealed to them could not accept the truth.

As you go about your day, you can be sure that some have determined “the truth” about you.   Hopefully, you have not determined “the truth” about others.  One truth that I know is, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  Even if I do know “the truth” about someone else, I am focused on trying to repent from my own sins rather than degrading someone else for their sins, regardless if their sin is “true” or not.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for being the way, the truth, and the life.  Help us to repent of our sins and not judge or speak negatively about others but rather to pray for their repentance.  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 Heart of a Child is the Key to Heaven


    The Heart of a Child is the Key to Heaven

    The Heart of a Child is the Key to Heaven
    “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV).There is no greater gift from God…
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  • Who Do You Listen To?


    Who Do You Listen To?

    Who Do You Listen To?
    “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say” (Isaiah 28:23 NIV).
    Listening is essential to learning.  I hear many voices, especially on television, but I don’t really listen to them.  I hear them but am not listening.  I feel that much, if not all, of what they have to say is not important and/or is too depressing or divisive.  The story of The Transfiguration in Matthew 17 is a powerful reminder of the importance to listen to Jesus.
    “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led…
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  • The ‘Fruit of The Spirit’ Attributes


    The ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ Attributes2

    The ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ Attributes
    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
    “The Fruit of the Holy Spirit” is a Biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a Christian. According to Paul the Apostle in his Epistle to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  These are all characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s active presence in lives and a healthy Christian soul contains all of the…
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All We Can Do Now Is Pray?

todd shupe

All We Can Do Now Is Pray?

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV).

I was recently talking with a friend of mine whose wife is in hospice care.  He has been keeping in close contact with his pastor and passing along daily medical updates.  Each day the pastor told my friend to “hang in there” and then politely end the conversation.  Eventually her condition became critical and the doctors estimated that she only a few more days to live.  My friend spoke to his pastor that day and relayed the devastation news.  The pastor said, “All we can do now is pray.”

I was heart broken when my friend told me this story.  I was sad that he was about to lose his wife, but also sad that the pastor did not invite the Holy Spirit to be present at the beginning of the process.  Prayer is not the last thing we do.  It is the first thing we do.  One of my favorite Bible verses is, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).   We are made righteous through the blood of Jesus and our prayers are powerful.  Certainly, God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want.  However, our prayers are a form of worship, and He will honor that.  We were made to worship Him rather than to fully understand Him.

Our prayers when offered in confidence and thanksgiving may not always bring about our desired outcome but they will bring about peace.  Philippians 4:6 teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Unanswered prayers will certainly test our faith and an appropriate response might be to say, “God, I do not like this or understand this, but I know you will work this out for good so I trust you and I am claiming your promises.”

2 Chronicles 20 tells an amazing story of King Jehoshaphat when he was confronted by three overwhelming armies. I realize you may not be facing an army to overtake your kingdom, but we sometimes are placed in what appears to be a hopeless situation. The king modeled for us the proper sequence of steps to take in such a situation. First, pray to God. This is putting Matthew 6:33 into action. “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness.”

Then, take action based on His guidance. After the king’s prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came and said, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15). The people sang songs of praise (worship) and went out to watch the battle as instructed by the Spirit. The three armies destroyed each other. This is a perfect example of “the battle belongs to the Lord (1 Samuel 17:47). All battles belong to the Lord, not just physical battles.

The faith of a mustard seed can do amazing things. It doesn’t always do amazing things, but it always has great potential. We can best position ourselves to tap into God’s power when we live in accordance with His Word. So, don’t pray as a last resort. Instead, follow the instruction and promise of Matthew 6:33. Be blessed as you bless others.

Prayer:   Dear God, Forgive us when we rush ahead and do what is right in our own eyes.  Help us to always pray first and seek Your guidance and know that the battle belongs to You.

Meet the Author

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

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  • The Biblical Roots Of Trust



    The Biblical Roots Of Trust
    Trust is an essential component to any relationship. Trust is essential for a relationship to move past a superficial level to a more intimate and personal basis. Our relationship with God is based on our trust that first, He lived and died for our sins and second, He has our best interests at heart and loves us unconditionally.The actual phrase “Jesus loves me,” cannot be found in the Bible but there are examples that support this fact. In John 13:34 Jesus said, “As I have loved you, you must love one another” and in John 15:9 He said, “As the Father has…
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  • Trust God, Not Your Feelings


    Trust God, Not Your Feelings

    Trust God, Not Your Feelings
    “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).Have you ever heard the expression, “trust your gut.”  This speaks to our natural desire to go with our feelings.  If it feels right, it must be right.  The problem is that often what feels right to us is not always right to God. The Bible teaches about a time when the world was in anarchy because of this attitude: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).   Today, do we do what feels…
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  • Are You Patiently or Impatiently Waiting on God?


    Are You Patiently or Impatiently Waiting on God?

    Are You Patiently or Impatiently Waiting on God?
    “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14 NKJV).According to the website Brainboost.com, the average person will spend 10 years standing in line over their lifetime.  I wonder how much time will be added on if they factored in waiting on the phone, waiting for a movie to start, or one of my favorite past times – waiting on God.The Bible is full of stories of those who waited on God to move.  Joseph waited over 13 years before…
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Love Must Be Shown

Love Must Be Shown

“Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds’” (James 2:18 NLT).

Some people think faith is a strong belief in something or someone.  Some may argue that it is a concept or a part of theology.  Faith is so much more than any of that.  The second chapter of James teaches us that real faith transforms lives.   2 Corinthians 5:7 is essential in this regard because it tells us, “For we live by faith, not by sight.”  Faith is an essential part of our very life as a Christian. 

James 2:18 reads, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’”  James is describing a person who thinks faith can be separated from works (actions).  This is impossible because our faith and our deeds are inseparable. 

James is essentially saying if you claim to be a Christian, then your actions should support that faith and be visible for others to see.  He is passionate about faith because his life was transformed by his faith.  His faith in God was manifested by his service to God and others.  A fruit of our faith today should also be our works. 

In other words, our works are a natural product from our faith in God and are not done in an attempt to gain favor with God. Our works are not a means of salvation.  Jesus is the only path to salvation.  Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our good deeds are like filthy rags.  This means that our attempts to be “good” are nothing compared to the true goodness of God because we are all sinners and fall short of His glory.

It is good and helpful to talk about our faith and use it to encourage others.  Faith cannot end with words.  Our words are important but must be accompanied by action.  Mother Teresa once said, “The world can be changed by your example, not by your opinions.”

So you may be wondering what does all this talk have to do with the title of this blog?  Faith is very similar to love in one aspect.  Love isn’t visible unless you are able to see it in action. In the same way, the only way you know if someone has real faith is by looking at how they live.  Faith and love are not ideas, emotions, or theological concepts.  They are actions.

Prayer:  Dear God, Forgive us for not only our lack of faith but also our lack of actions.  Send your Holy Spirit to walk with us and teach us as we walk by faith and show our faith with our actions.  We need you and love 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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  • The Walk to Emmaus: The Best Spiritual Weekend Retreat


    The Walk to Emmaus: The Best Spiritual Weekend Retreat

    The Walk to Emmaus: The Best Spiritual Weekend Retreat
    “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:30-32 NIV).The Walk to Emmaus “Walk” is a three-day spiritual retreat that came out of the Roman Catholic Cursillo movement. The Walk to Emmaus is held numerous times during…
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  • Words Of Life Or Death


    todd shupe

    Words Of Life Or Death
    “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36 NIV)
    You can turn on the tv news any day at any time to see that things are not peaceful.  People have strong opinions on political, social environmental, and other issues.  A variety of opinions and perspectives can help form a good decision.  However, we all tend to wear blinders and have a very limited field of view on certain issues.  This hinders our perspective and therefore our ability to see issues…
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  • Boundaries Benefit All


    Boundaries Benefit All

    Boundaries Benefit All
    “Moses’ father-in-law replied, What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18 NIV).I just finished reading a book called “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  It is a New York Times Bestseller and has sold over two million copies since it was first published in 1992 and then revised in 2017.  This is a Christian book that uses appropriate Scripture to help readers take control of their lives by learning when…
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