Significance of ‘Sheep and Goats’ Passage

Significance of ‘Sheep and Goats’ Passage

Significance of ‘Sheep and Goats’ Passage

“He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left” (Matthew 25:33 NIV).

I have talked to many Christians who believe they are destined for heaven because they have been a good person, attended church, contributed money and even helped their neighbor a few times and participated in committee meetings at church. They are essentially saying that they have “earned” their way into heaven. They may admit to believing in some sort of “higher power” and call themselves “spiritual.” They may even know some Scripture regarding God’s love and the miracles performed by Jesus.  My heart goes out to these people because they are deceived.

This notion that Jesus will accept everybody into heaven is false. On Earth, He calls us into a relationship with him. He offers His yoke to carry our burden. He offers the living water from Jacob’s well.  He even offered His own body for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus told us that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

The Bible instructs us in Matthew 7:13-14, Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” I believe the life that He is referring to is a life in Christ in which He dwells in us and we in Him. We no longer seek earthly pleasures but rather seek to build His kingdom on earth.  We find a peace that surpasses all understanding and are content in all circumstances.  To truly accept Jesus we are called to “die to self.”  This means our old self-centered desires are gone and we now have an outward focus to our desires.  We are seeking His face and acting as His hands and feet.

In my opinion, the heart of the Gospel is Matthew 25. This contains three parables and all are warnings to us. The last parable is that of “The Sheep and the Goats.”  This parable is rarely preached in church, but is essential for those seeking to enter His kingdom. Some may argue that all they have to do is proclaim their allegiance to God as Paul writes to the Romans in 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Paul is teaching that we must confess our belief in God to be saved. As a “saved” person we do not have automatic access to Heaven.  Please consider James 2:14-17: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Now, some of you may be thinking, I thought that we could not earn our way into heaven. That is exactly correct.  Your good deeds for your church and neighbor will not earn your way into heaven. Heaven is reserved for those that (1) have accepted Jesus as their Lord and (2) have headed His call to feed His sheep.  Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We know from Scripture that God is love so if we love one another we truly have the Holy Spirit in us and are living in Christ. We feed the poor, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned not to curry favor with God but as a natural manifestation of our love for Christ and therefore our love for our fellow man.

Below is perhaps the heart of the gospel.   The parable of the sheep and the goats is from Matthew 25:31-46.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.”

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?’38 When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?”

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.’”

41 “Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’”

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’”

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’”

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Prayer:  Dear God, May we never deny the opportunity to show Your face to our brothers and sisters.  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 Our Emotions


    Understanding Our Emotions

    Understanding Our Emotions
    16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do…
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  • A Joyful Life


    A Joyful Life

    A Joyful Life
    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).Our society has achieved a point of technological advancement that was unthinkable a mere 10-20 years ago.  In the Western world, we have freedoms of speech and access to clean drinking water that are unheard of in other countries.   All of us, even those barely out of diapers, have smart phones.  However, many Americans are without joy and are seeking answers from pharmaceutical companies to the bottom of a beer bottle.  I…
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  • Who Is In Your Foxhole?



    Who Is In Your Foxhole?
    “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV).
    A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Coach Jeff Kisiah “Coach K” at an Iron Sharpens Iron men’s equipping conference.  He spoke about the importance of foxhole friends and the strength of a threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  This man of God recently went on to Glory, but he left behind a legacy.  The basis for the annual, national conference is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.”
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Finding the Fruits of the Spirit

Finding the Fruits of the Spirit

Finding the Fruits of the Spirit

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25-276 KJV).

I love to watch St. Louis Cardinals baseball games on television.  I played little league baseball but knew at a very young age that I would never play professional baseball at any level.  I simply did not have the talent.  It was not “in” me.  I had the gift of a strong arm.  However, it was not the strongest by far and when combined with an average glove, below average speed, and a weak bat, the pro scouts surprisingly did not come to my games. 

Many of us are familiar with the Scripture from Galatians 5:22-23 that describes the fruits of the Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV).  This Scripture was important because Paul wrote to the churches in southern Galatia after having a hand in starting them on his first missionary journey to Asia Minor.  Paul’s letter was targeting the first real controversy that plagued the church in its early years—the relationship between Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles. Paul’s wanted the people to embrace unity in Christ, no matter their racial distinctions.  The fruits of the Spirit will always be essential for unity and peaceful living.

The fruits of the Spirit are “in” all of us.  Yes, some of them may be more developed than others.  However, all fruits are the product of growth.  We cultivate our fruit trees in order to maximize the yield of fruit.  Similarly, we should cultivate our spiritual lives to increase our fruit of the Spirit.  We are custodians of our Spiritual fruit, and the best thing we can do with it is to use it to build up the body of Christ.  We can’t give what we don’t have, but we can help all of our Spiritual fruits advance to the next stage of maturity.  Below are some tips on how to do this.

  • Love — We can sift every thought, word, and action through the filter of “Is it loving?”
  • Joy — We can be the source of smiles, laughter, and appreciation.
  • Peace — We can fill the atmosphere with our own sense of peace, a calm amid the chaos, so
  • Self-control — We can commit ourselves to no outbursts, no irritating reports.
  • Kindness — We can shower others with affirmation, encouraging the flickering candle of their best selves to burn more brightly.
  • Goodness — We can focus on the positives, rather than the faults, of those around us.
  • Faithfulness — We can be true to the blessed values of the Christmas season.
  • Gentleness — We can give our full attention to each person, one at a time, not omitting even the most troublesome

Prayer:  Dear God:  Please help us to cultivate and use our fruits of the Spirit so that wherever we go others will be attracted to our light and come to understand that our light is yours.  All glory and honor is yours.  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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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)

todd shupe

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 from all sides.

To see all sides, I belong to many Christian-based groups on Facebook.  Current issues (social and political) are often a frequent topic of conversation.  As Christians we have a calling to be advocates for social justice – to hear the call of the needy.  We are also called to encourage and build up each other (Ephesians 4:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 14:19).

In recent years I have noticed a progressively divisive tone of discourse in these Facebook groups.  I have seen name calling, slander, bullying, and vulgar language to advance their agenda or argument.  This is appalling and is evidence that the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is absent.  This is particularly troubling when these comments are coming from clergy, elders, deacons, and other church leaders who are held to a higher standard (James 3:1).  Yes, our words matter because, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).  Our words need to be consistently, not periodically, uplifting to the Body of the Christ.  James 3:11 addresses this issue by asking, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”  Matthew 12:34 tells us that negative words are evidence of an unhealthy heart. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” In the book Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer writes, “Judgment and criticism are fruit of a deeper problem – pride.”

It seems that people get more easily agitated and are more likely to make offensive comments on social media rather than in person.  The website Inc. posted an interesting article You Should Never, Ever Argue With Anyone On Facebook, According to Science.   According to the article there is a simple reason why this happens.  “We respond very differently to what people write than to what they say–even if those things are exactly the same. That’s the result of a fascinating new experiment by UC Berkeley and University of Chicago researchers. In the study, 300 subjects read, watched video of, or listened to arguments about such hot-button topics as war, abortion, and country or rap music. Afterward, subjects were interviewed about their reactions to the opinions with which they disagreed.” 

“Their general response was probably very familiar to anyone who’s ever discussed politics: a broad belief that people who don’t agree with you are either too stupid or too uncaring to know better. But there was a distinct difference between those who had watched or listened to someone speak the words out loud and those who had read the identical words as text. Those who had listened or watched someone say the words were less likely to dismiss the speaker as uninformed or heartless than they were if they were just reading the commenter’s words.”

I understand how this happens, but I do not condone it.  Fortunately, by the grace of the Holy Spirit I have been able to control my urges to engage in this behavior on social media.   As church leaders, we need to set the example of proper Christian conversation, particularly outside the church building.  Matthew 12:36 reads, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Prayer:  Dear God, Please remove our fleshly desires of pride, and replace the void with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

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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I Saw Jesus Smoking A Cigarette

I Saw Jesus Smoking A Cigarette

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

Each week I join in with a handful of men from around the country for a one-hour meeting on Zoom.  I really look forward to these meetings and enjoy the conversation.   I have learned a lot about these men, life, love, family, and God.  I think it is so imperative to surround yourself with Godly people to help position yourself to hear from God.  I am convinced that God uses each of us to speak His words to each other.

The host of the meeting is a long-time dear friend of mine that lives in St. Francisville, La.  In the Wesleyan style of a good Methodist, he asks each participant two questions.  First, “how is it with your soul?”  Second, “When were you closest to Christ this past week?”  These are two fundamental questions from the The Class Meeting.  Historically, Class Meetings “made sure that every Methodist was connected to other Methodists, so no one was left out, ignored, or overlooked,” notes the Rev. Kevin Watson, a United Methodist elder and Assistant Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology. “They relentlessly focused every Methodist on the current state of their relationship with God. And they connected people to others who were at different stages of the Christian life.”

Last week when the host asked me the two questions, I struggled to formulate a coherent answer.  I did not want to lie and tell him everything was great, but like most men I did not want to burden the group with my struggles.  He gently asked a few more questions, and I told the truth that I was frustrated with several things and the pace at which some things were moving.  I am not a big fan of procrastination or going slow. 

The wives of one of the men was listening in to the Zoom meeting.  She contacted me later and said she wanted to help.  Naturally, my inclination was to thank her and politely decline.  This is known as pride.  As she asked a second time, I responded with humility and agreed.  She asked for my grocery list, and I sent it to her.  The next day the doorbell rang.  I had forgotten about my friend’s wife and assumed it was a delivery person.  I went to the door and there she stood with my groceries and a smile.

 

I was overwhelmed with her kindness and offered to pay.  She refused payment so I tried again, and she declined again.  I thanked her, prayed for her, and sent her a hand-written thank you note.  I was depressed and in mourning, but her presence brought comfort.  Isn’t this what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Like many of you I have seen hundreds of paintings of Jesus over my life.  Some are Him with children, praying, preaching, or walking the road to Emmaus.  That day I saw Jesus on my front porch with a smile and some groceries.  I realize it might sound strange, but Jesus was smoking a cigarette.   Her name is Lynda Jenkins, and she is the wife of my friend Ed.  They live in St. Francisville, La.

Prayer:  Dear God, Help us to understand the blessing of giving and receiving to those in need.  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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Trust God, Not Your Feelings

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 right or do we live a prayerful life and invite the Holy Spirit to be present and guide us in our decisions so they bring honor and glory to Him rather than pleasure to us?

If you reflect back on the poor decisions in your life, they are likely decisions that were made based on emotions and not prayer.  Yes, God gave us our feelings but that does not mean that all of our emotions are good.  For example, we have the ability to be jealous and envious, but Scripture speaks at length that these feelings are to be avoided. 

Emotional-based decisions are particularly dangerous when it comes to major decisions such as marriage and children, divorce, and new relationships after a divorce.  “After people get divorced, they rush into a new relationship because they hurt,” says Dr. Myles Munroe. “They believe the secret to relieving the hurt is a new relationship, which is the worst thing a person can do. If you get remarried and you’re still hurting, you are taking your hurt into another relationship, and that is going to become the foundation of the relationship, which is faulty.”

When you are making decisions regarding a new relationship, do not make decisions based on your feelings. Our feelings are temporal and not always rational, no matter how strong that may feel. It is important to take the time to grow and to build your life on a strong foundation.  The Old Testament is full of stories of people that made emotional-based decisions that displeased God and prayerful decisions that honored God.  Decisions that honor God will bring about His favor and blessing.

One of my favorite Bible verses comes from Joshua 24:15. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  If we are to truly serve Him, the we are to make decisions that honor Him by inviting Him to be present and walk with us.  The alternative is not very inviting.  The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD’” (Jeremiah 17:5).  Serve the LORD and be blessed.

Prayer: Dear God: Great is thy faithfulness. 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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Daniel Shows Us How To Handle A Crisis

Daniel Shows Us How To Handle A Crisis
Daniel Shows Us How To Handle A Crisis

Crisis Management From Daniel

Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.   He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:17-18 NIV).

I have long enjoyed reading the book of Daniel.  He was a young Jewish man that lived in Jerusalem and was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  He loyally served the king while remaining true to God.  The story of Daniel in the lion’s den from Daniel 6 is one of the better-known Sunday school stories.  I also love the story of the fiery furnace as described in Daniel 3.

There is another great story from Daniel in chapter 2.  King Nebuchadnezzar was angry because none of his astrologers were able to interpret his troubling dreams.  He then ordered the execution of all his advisers which include Daniel and his friends.  The king’s men eventually located Daniel and informed him of the king’s decree. 

When Daniel heard the news, he asked Arioch, commander of the king’s bodyguard, “why the king had issued such a harsh order.  So Arioch told Daniel what had happened. Daniel went at once and obtained royal permission for more time, so that he could tell the king what the dream meant. Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. He told them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy and to ask him to explain the mystery to them so that they would not be killed along with the other advisers in Babylon. Then that same night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and he praised the God of heaven …” (Daniel 2:15-23).

Daniel was modelling for us today the correct response to what seems like an impossible situation.  First, Daniel did not panic. He learned all the facts and sought to understand the reason for the king’s request. When someone asks us to do the impossible, we need to gain a better understanding of the situation so we can appropriately respond.

The king was scared and worried.   He was panicking, irrational, and made an illogical demand.   The second thing Daniel did was to ask Arioch information so he could better understand the situation.  Proverbs 23:23 teaches us to, “Get the facts at any price.” 

Daniel realized that this situation was too big for him to handle by himself.  The third thing he did was to activate his prayer warriors.  Daniel “urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery (Daniel 2:18).”  Daniel was showing us the importance of having an existing prayer team.  It is not an issue of if a crisis will come to any of us but when will it come and how will we respond.

Daniel turned his focus away from the problem and toward God.  He asked God for supernatural help.  By focusing on God, Daniel was worshiping God.  God did what only He can do. “That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19).

Finally, but of great importance, Daniel used this situation to point others toward God and not himself.  After the king had asked Daniel if he could interpret the dream, Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about,  but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Daniel 2:27-28).  Daniel wisely gave credit to God and turned the crisis into successful evangelism.  The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery (Daniel 2:47).”  Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Dear God: Thank you for giving us Scripture and for using Daniel to show us how to worship you in a crisis.  When we are faced with adversity may we worship you with praise and prayers of thanksgiving for your love and grace and lift petitions in confidence for Your help that will come in the perfect form and perfect time.

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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Book Review: Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey Nine Steps of Forgiving through Jesus’ Beatitudes

Book Review: Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey Nine Steps of Forgiving through Jesus’ Beatitudes
Book Review: Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey Nine Steps of Forgiving through Jesus’ Beatitudes

Book Review: Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey Nine Steps of Forgiving through Jesus’ Beatitudes by Flora Slosson Wuellner

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”  (John 15:11 NIV).

I think most Christians understand that that through the blood of Jesus we have forgiveness for our sins and life everlasting with the Father.  However, many of us still struggle with the concept of forgiveness.  This book uses the Beatitudes, eight blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, to point the reader toward Jesus as they travel the path of forgiveness. 

This book is helpful for those seeking spiritual growth and insight for healthy, empowered forgiveness of others and forgiveness of ourselves.  Each chapter focuses on a Beatitude and concludes with a healing meditation.  The meditations help the reader to process their emotions by acknowledging that “hurt, hostility, and healing that is hot and Holy ground.”

I underlined a section in the Introduction that speaks to the Biblical definition of “blessed.”  “To be blessed means two things in Scripture:  It means to be happy, to be fulfilled.  It also means to be empowered by God’s love to undertake a task.  The living Jesus Christ not only empowers us for healthy forgiveness but walks the path with us, enfolding us with God’s compassion, praying through the pain “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11)

The book explains that the central focus of the Beatitudes is “what is happening in our heart’s core.”  In His sermon, Jesus is addressing release from that which imprisons and corrupts our heart.  This is important because our words and actions are a manifestation of our heart.  Forgiveness is a release from the prison and burden of the past.  Forgiveness is not a release from responsibility.  As we study and pray and grow closer to Christ we are able to do the things that we cannot do on our own.  Through Him we can forgive others and ourselves. 

Those that hurt us are often wounded people themselves.  We will encounter some people in life that knowingly choose to do evil things to other people.  The author states that they are “caught in a prison of self-destruction that almost defies description.”  I had not realized that often when people deliberately hurt us they are acting out of a deep inner hurt in themselves.  Instead of giving emotional control to our attacker by feeling angry, we are asked to consider feeling pity and wonder what has happened to this person that has caused them to act in such an evil manner?  This is not done to minimize the hurt, but to facilitate our healing.

The discussion on self-forgiveness will also be helpful for many.  As we learn to listen to our inner selves we also learn to be released from rigid self judgement.  The door is opened for healing and transformation that can only be accomplished by God. 

The author does not advocate using this book in lieu of professional therapy.  The author clearly states in the Introduction that she believes in “prayer plus therapy, especially if the wound, abuse, anger, or fear is deep and longstanding.”  The book is available from the Upper Room Bookstore.

Prayer:  Thank you for the Sermon on the Mount.  Help us to find forgiveness and peace in the Beatitudes of 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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Book Review: God Knows Your Story (and He’s Not Mad!)

Book Review: God Knows Your Story (And He’s Not Mad!) by Carter Featherston
Book Review: God Knows Your Story (And He’s Not Mad!) by Carter Featherston

Book Review: God Knows Your Story (And He’s Not Mad!) by Carter Featherston

For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6 TPT).

If you have never done anything wrong and do not have any regrets or shame, then this book is not for you.  However, I strongly suspect that all of us have regrets and feel some sense of shame for poor choices.  This is a Biblically based book that points the reader to the only true source of victory of sin and shame, Jesus. 

This book is valuable because it addresses a topic that all struggle with but is seldom discussed.  I have known Carter for several years through his talks at various Iron Sharpens Iron conferences, which are always well attended and well received.  Carter is the perfect messenger because of his deep knowledge of Scripture from his years in seminary and as a pastor.  The book is also beneficial because it is authentic.  At the end of Chapter one, Carter writes, “My qualifications to write this book are twofold:  I have  outrageously failed in life as my story finally defeated me; but I cried out to God, Who answered me and showed me great and hidden things I did not know (Jeremiah 33:3).  This book is about what I learned on that journey.” 

The first six chapters are categorized as Dialogue:  God’s Plan For Transformation.  The first chapter is entitled, Our Stories Begin With Hiding. Just as Adam and Eve covered their shame with fig leaves we and often cover ourselves with a “false self “to cover our shame.  The book proceeds with authentic examples from Carter’s life and Scripture to help the reader find freedom.

Carter unpacks Ephesians Chapter 1 to explain six comforting and encourage elements about our relationship with God.  We (1) were chosen, (2) are holy and blameless, (3) have been adopted, (4) have redemption, (5) were granted forgiveness, and (6) were sealed with the Holy Spirit.

The final seven chapters are categorized as Strategies:  Changing at the Level of Identity.  Carter takes the reader on a deep dive to change how we perceive ourselves by understanding who we are and Whose we are.  Carter shepherds the reader along the path of God’s grace, God’s Word, and prayer to facilitate a change at the level of identity. 

I underlined several sentences and paragraphs in the book.  One that particularly resonated with me was, “Every passage in the New Testament about our identity is taught to us personally and privately by the Holy Spirit.  If He does not teach us, it will remain as mere words on the page.  Now that will preach! 

Carter (and all of us) are not defined by our past mistakes.  Carter beautifully reveals how He has obtained true and lasting forgiveness for his sins from Jesus and we can too.  By yoking up to Jesus, Carter’s past failings are now being used as a powerful, authentic witness to help others.  As I read the book my mind would often drift to Luke 4:18 where Jesus reads from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and announces, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”  I now realize how some people have imprisoned themselves due to shame, have vision but are blind to the promises of love from the Father in Scripture, and are oppressed by a self-created monster of shame due to an inability for self-forgiveness.   The book is available at Amazon and will be a blessing to yourself or as a gift to a friend. 


Prayer:  Dear God, We all have sinned and fall short of Your glory.   Open our ears to hear Your voice.  Open our eyes to see ourselves as You see us.  Help us to claim our new identity in Christ.  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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Be Specific In Prayer

Be Specific In Prayer

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NIV).

If you have a specific need, you need to make a specific request.  We all have specific needs (health, financial, family, etc.), but many of us approach prayer with general requests.  However, Jesus taught us to be specific in our prayers.  As He taught his followers to pray, He could have told them to say, “bless us” or “help us.” However, He taught, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). He was urging His followers to be specific in prayer.  The bread was essential to life then, and Jesus is “the Bread of Life” for us today (John 6:35).

Why is it important to be specific in prayer?  Praying for specific needs helps with the following.

1)  Clarifies our minds.  A specific prayer allows us to clearly define the need.  As we clearly articulate our petition, we may begin to formulate a solution.  We realize that God’s solution may not be the same as our solution.  Once we speak our prayer, we now have one of life’s most precious commodities – hope.

2)  Identify the root problem.  As we develop specific prayers, we have the opportunity to pause and reflect on what is causing this need?  For example, perhaps we don’t need a salary increase but rather we need to be more careful with our spending.

3)  It reminds us of our dependence on God.  We are dependent on God, and all that we have is due to His blessing.  We would be wise to remember that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).  In some churches, the congregation sings the short hymn, “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” as the offering is brought forward to be received.  This doxology reminds us that as children of God, we are dependent on the blessings of the Father for provision and protection.

4) Increases our awareness of His answer.  As we offer up a specific prayer, we await an answer.  General prayers are more difficult to discern when, if, or how they have been answered.  For example, if you have a meeting with a difficult co-worker or supervisor tomorrow, then today you could pray that God would bless you with a spirit of peace so you can sleep well tonight.  Pray for wisdom so you are prepared for the meeting.  Pray that God grants you both with a spirit of gentleness.  And pray that the meeting is productive, and God is honored.

5) Strengthens our faith.  A prayer is an essential form of worship for a Christian.  If we do not have faith in God, then there is no need for prayer.  Prayer allows us to connect to God and draws us closer to Him. As we see God respond to our specific prayers, our relationship with God deepens, and our faith increases.

6) Lightens our burden.  Our prayers are a reminder of our covenant with God.  As you “Come to Him” in prayer, you “yoke up” with supernatural power and find “rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28).  Our burden is lightened because we are working in tandem with Him.

There are numerous examples in Scripture where people offer up specific prayers to God.  In Genesis 24 we learn that Abraham’s servant has been sent to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac.  The servantly wisely began the assignment with prayer. “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master: (Genesis 24:12-14).  Scripture says, “Before he had finished praying, Rebekah appeared” (Genesis 24:15).  The servant offered a specific prayer and had an answered prayer.  He saw God at work.

1 Chronicles 4:10 details the prayer of Jabez.  He was a relatively obscure person that prayed a specific prayer to God.  “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.”  May we also formulate specific prayers to address our needs that bring honor and glory to the Father.

Prayer:  Dear God, As we offer up specific prayers to you, may we do so boldly with confidence and thanksgiving.  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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What Is Your Reflection?

What Is Your Reflection?

What Is Your Reflection?

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver” (Malachi 3:3 NIV).

What Is Your Reflection?

I think most people probably use a mirror at least once a day, maybe even multiple times.  We look at ourselves to see our reflection.  We want to know what image we are reflecting out to others.  Then, we take action to improve our appearance.

Scripture tells us that God’s Word is like a mirror:  “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23-24).  A mirror reflects our outside physical appearance, and God’s Word reflects our inner spiritual appearance.  Which one of these do you think is more important to you, to society, and to God?

Have you ever seen yourself as one of the characters in the Bible?  For example, if you read the parable of the lost son in Luke 15, you will likely see yourself as behaving as one of the characters at some point in your life.  Sometimes we focus on the sins of others rather than our own sins as happened to the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  I saw a great meme on Facebook recently that read – the only one qualified to throw a stone did not.

Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word discerns our heart’s thoughts and desires.  As we search Scripture, it searches us as well.  I suspect that some do not read the Bible because they are afraid to look into the mirror of God’s Word and see their spiritual reflection.  Our spiritual reflection to the world is evidenced by our ability, or inability, to show the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5 22-23). 

What is our spiritual reflection of our self?  Our sins can soil our image to our own eyes.  Our spiritual reflection to ourselves lies in our ability to claim our new identity in Christ.  The Fruits of The Spirit are not only to be shown to others but also to ourselves.  How can we give these to others when we have failed to give them to ourselves? 

God is known by many names and descriptions in Scripture.  One of my favorite images is that of a silversmith.  In Malachi 3:3 we learn, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver

When silver is mined from the earth, it does not look like the silver we find in a jewelry store. In fact, it is not always recognizable due to the impurities that mar its appearance. An experienced silver miner knows that the ugliest lump of silver is of great value, and the potential for beauty is great.  God does not see us full of impurity but full of worth.

I was in a Bible study years ago when I first read this verse.  An older gentleman asked me how does God know when the silver is refined and finished?  He answered his own question and said when He can see His own reflection in who is being refined.  Amen?

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for your love and patience as the impurities are removed from our spirits.  We know that through your grace and the blood of Jesus you can look at us and see Your reflection as we are presented perfect, blameless, and without fault.

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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