An Attitude of Gratitude

Your Gratitude Determines Your Attitude
Your Gratitude Determines Your Attitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

We all know someone with a lousy attitude, maybe that person is you.  If your attitude is bad, you probably lack gratitude.  If we focus on our past mistakes and sins, we can’t see our present blessings.  Sometimes, we are stuck in the past with a legitimate complaint – Why did I not get the promotion?  Why did my house burn down?  Why did my child die before me?   Life is hard and sometimes unfair.  Jesus spoke about the certainty of trouble in John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Christians do not get to avoid adversity but do get the Good Shepherd to lead us through tough times.

At attitude of gratitude is essential for finding the peace of God that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  I have traveled to various developing countries and one thing that always amazes me is the attitude of the poor.  Some would say that they have nothing, but I would argue that although they are living in extreme, horrible poverty they have everything.  They have peace in their heart and an attitude of gratitude for the presence of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  They are living out the words of God to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  In a recent sermon Rev. Tom Cook of Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, La stated, “The greatest thing that any Christian can be thankful for is the free gift of salvation and hope in this life and the next.”

In the US we think happiness is linked to financial success.  However, Jill Suttie wrote in Greater Good Magazine, “In recent studies, scientists have found that the connection between wealth and well-being is not clear-cut. While some studies seem to tie wealth to well-being, others show that, after a certain point, a higher income will not bring more happiness or life satisfaction.”

Naz Beheshti wrote in Forbes magazine that the benefits of expressing gratitude are well-documented. “A study found that making a regular and deliberate effort to record one’s blessings improves a range of outcomes related to mental health and overall well-being. Keeping a gratitude journal is an increasingly popular personal practice.”  The author also further reports, “Four in five (81%) employees report they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. When gratitude becomes a regular organizational practice, employees will feel both appreciated and valued, and their productivity and engagement will increase by leaps and bounds.”

Our response to God’s grace should be thanksgiving and worship. Paul summarizes it perfectly in 1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Prayer:  Dear God:  We thank you for the many blessings that you have given us.  We are especially thankful for our salvation that comes through Him.  Help us to keep an attitude of gratitude.  We 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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Be Childlike not Immature

Be Childlike not Immature

Be Childlike not Immature

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25 NIV).

Be Childlike not Immature

One of the better-known Scriptures in the Bible is, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).  Jesus clearly had a love for children.  Jesus wants us to be like little children because most children are eager to learn.  If we are to be followers of God, we need to know God and seek His face through study, worship, tithing, prayer, and service. 

Jesus wants us to be willing to listen, eager to learn, open to suggestions and corrections from others.  Proverbs 12:15 teaches, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

Teachable people understand that it’s impossible for anyone to know everything about every subject. You don’t have time in life to learn everything from personal experience. It’s wiser to learn from the experience of others.

Jesus likens greatness to childlikeness.  Anyone coming to Him must come in absolute childlike dependency and humility.  Jesus lovingly embraced His disciples as “my children” (John 13:33).  The apostle John lovingly addresses us in scripture as “my children” (John 13:33). 

The Bible says in Proverbs 15:12, “Conceited people do not like to be corrected; they never ask for advice from those who are wiser.”  Pride causes us to act like they know it all.  Pride is not a fruit of the spirit.   It is immature and not childlike.   Jesus likens greatness to childlikeness.  A disciple follows Him in absolute childlike dependency and humility and seeks to bring other children, regardless of age, to Him also.  Jesus lovingly embraced His disciples as “my children” (John 13:33).  The apostle John lovingly addresses us in scripture as “my children” (John 13:33).

What happens when someone shows you how to do something or how to do something better?  What happens when someone corrects us and tries to point out a mistake or error that we said or did?  Are we gracious and thank them for their interest, or do we sometimes become defensive?

So, we all have a choice.  We can be humble and open to learning and correction or we can be immature and full of pride.  God loves all of His children regardless of their maturity, but I think He wants us to be teachable.  I think God desires for us to continue to learn about Him as He continues to reveal Himself to us.  We must be childlike so we can keep learning about Him.  The more we understand about Him, the more we understand about His will for us and the joy that awaits us by living in the Spirit.

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for being our Good Father.  May we always approach you with the curiosity of children that seek to be clay in your hands.  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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How Can I Help Others?

How Can I Help Others?

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NIV).

As Christians we are all called into ministry through our baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  Our greatest ministry for all Christians is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  When we show love to our neighbor, we are showing them Christ.   It is important that we pause to discern how can we best help others.   Below are a few ideas on helping, counseling, or ministering (any word will suffice I think) when a person is in need.  Of course, if the need is physical, then they need physical assistance.  For example, a person that is hungry needs food, not a 10-point plan on how to turn your life around.  Now, let’s proceed with a few thoughts, and I welcome your input as well.

Listen

Tune out distractions and actively listen to the person.  Most of this is common sense, but active listening is becoming a think of the past.   Make eye contact, don’t be judgmental, stay calm, and restate what you are hearing.  People don’t expect you to have the answers, but they do expect you to care.  Remember, nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.  So, do a lot of listening and not much talking.  “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).

Point them to God 

Yes, they don’t expect you to have the answers, but you would do your neighbor a tremendous disservice if you did not use this ministry opportunity to point them to the source of answers, comfort, peace, grace, and understanding.  We can show them the love of God when we encourage them to caste all of their anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).   A life lived in Christ and for Christ helps us to more clearly see Him and give our problems to Him.  Jesus told us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”

Love 

God is love and He wants us to love one another.  “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).  Love in adversity is the ultimate comfort.  This is what is meant by “being there.”  When we show up with love in our hearts, we are bringing Jesus in our hearts.  We all cherish and need faith and hope.  The Word teaches us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  Love is the greatest because God is the greatest. 

Prayer:  Dear God:  We live in a world of so much hurt and brokenness.  You know this.  Please be with us at all times but particularly in times when we can be your witness in ministry to others in times of adversity.  Give us your ears to hear and your tongue to speak truth and love.  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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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. 

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instructed His followers to use bread and wine to remember the sacrifice He was going to make when He died for our sins on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  This simple meal is an invitation to “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8).  The invitation is to experience His living presence, and it comes with a promise which is always true.   The more you experience Him, the more aware you will become of His goodness. 

Knowledge of God is essential to our faith.

In times of adversity, it is natural to doubt the goodness of God.  The ways of God are always good but are often mysterious, even to those who know Him intimately.  The Bible teaches us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).  I have wasted many hours trying to understand His ways.  This is particularly true in times of adversity and worry.   God uses adversity to draw us nearer and the enemy seizes the opportunity to damage our emotional health.

Imagine how much more complete our lives would be if we turned our worry into worship.  Instead of trying to understand God, we should spend time enjoying His presence and experiencing His goodness.  I have tasted and know that the Lord is good.  My refuge, rock, and redeemer is my Lord.  Come and taste and you will see that the Lord is good.

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for Jesus.  We remember Him each time we consume His body and blood.  We vow to never forget His sacrifice for our sins.  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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Give to Receive?
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Give to Receive?

“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV).

Most Christians understand the need for giving.  For early Jews and Christians, almsgiving was the act of filling a material need for someone less fortunate, usually by giving money. God incorporated the concept of alms into the Mosaic Law when He ordered land-owners to leave to the poor the corners of the fields (Leviticus 19:9-10), and every seventh year, leave the entire field (Exodus 23:10-11). In churches today, “alms” often go by the name love offering or benevolence fund.

I have written earlier about the benefits of giving back to the church. This includes not only tithing but also our presence, talents, witness, and prayers.  Our giving is a means of grace and draws us closer to God.  We should only give out of joy and not with the expectation that God is now in debt to us for our gift.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Our gifts to the church reveal a lot about our priorities and our heart. God examines our hearts and knows our true desires.  Jeremiah 17:10 teaches, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”  So, what is your most prized possession?  Maybe it has economic value such as your house or sentimental value such as a picture.  Any items that is highly valued is our “treasure.”  It may not be gold coins, but it is still our treasure and this is important and revealing.  The Word teaches us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   So, our treasure and our emotions are intimately related.

There is nothing wrong with having things of economic or sentimental value.  The problem comes when our things “have us.”  God modeled true generosity when He sacrificed his greatest treasure for us. When we give like He does, and we honor Him with that giving, it makes us more like Him.

So, what are we to do with our treasure?   Many of my material treasures were lost in a flood a few years ago.  You may have had your treasure stolen or lost in a fire.  I have come to realize that my true treasure can never be lost or stolen.  One of my favorite Scriptures is Matthew 6:19-21 which reads as follows.  “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.”  Now, go back and re-read the previous sentence.  It will help you to better understand your heart and yourself.  Matthew 25:40 tells us how to go about storing up our treasure in heaven. “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.”

Prayer:  Dear God:  Help us to keep you first in our lives.  Thank you for modeling for us how to store up treasure in heaven.  Be with us as we seek out opportunities to be your hands and feet.  Amen.

Meet the Author

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

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Thank you for visiting. We trust that you have enjoyed reading our articles.

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You Got Questions? So Does God!

You Got Questions? So Does God!
You Got Questions? So Does God!

You Got Questions? So Does God!

Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

We all have questioned God when adversity or disappointment occurs.   I suspect we all excel at clearly telling God what we want.   How many times have you questioned God?  When will I get promoted?  Why did my good friend die?  Where am I going to live when I can no longer care for myself?  What does God want from me?   Who am I? A teacher encourages their students to learn.  Of the 90 times Jesus was directly addressed in the gospels, on 60 occasions He was addressed as “Teacher.”  Jesus himself used the term when He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).

God is teaching us when He asks us questions.  The purpose of the questions is likely for us to engage in a meaningful self-examination.  God is omniscient and already knows the answer.  Our answer to His questions provides an opportunity for spiritual growth.  He wants us to think.  The more we think, the more we learn.  Some of the questions cut right to the heart of difficulties in our lives. If we answer honestly, we’ll be confronted with some ugly truths in our hearts and lives we’d rather not deal with. This is to be expected; any good relationship helps us know ourselves better, including seeing our faults more clearly. When this happens, we must remember to distinguish between the experiences of conviction and condemnation. Though both come from encountering ugly truths about ourselves, conviction often comes from God, but condemnation never comes from God. Condemnation is conviction robbed of hope.  The difference is huge.

Below are five of my favorite questions from God.  Imagine Him asking these questions to you, and your response, as you read.

1.

Where are you?

“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (9) Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (10) He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (11) And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  (Genesis 3:8-11).

This is the first question from God.  God wants Adam to acknowledge where he is and why he is there.  Adam was hiding from God.  He had disobeyed, fallen into sin, and he was now fearful.  This question from God is one that He continues to ask us each day.  Man has continued to run and hide from God, and the Good Shepherd continues to seek us.  How would you respond if God asked that question to you?

2.

What is your name?

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When He saw that He had not prevailed against him, He touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while He wrestled with him. (26) Then He said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (27) So He said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” (28) He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” (29) Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:24-29).

The story of Jacob is a fascinating story of a man that battles with others and even with God.  God asked the question to get Jacob to acknowledge his identity.  Jacob means “supplanter” or “trickster.” Jacob had tricked his father and stolen a blessing intended for his older brother.  God had higher aspirations for Jacob and changed his name to Israel “Prince with God).”  Israel’s twelve sons became the “Tribes of Israel.”  God has always been in the business of changing people and a change of name is but an outward sign of the inward change. What would you say if God asked you your name?

3.

What are you doing here?

“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”  Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. … There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:1-10).

 Elijah had faced down the prophets of Baal and was now faced with the wrath of Jezebel (wife of Ahab, King of Israel).  Fear took over and Elijah hide in a cave.  The word of the Lord came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9).  God did not want his prophet to physically or spiritually be in this condition.  We all are members of a royal priesthood and God certainly does not want us to be hiding in a cave.   So what does God want from us?  For Elijah, God wanted Elijah to acknowledge that he was operating in fear, not faith, and had taken his eyes off the Lord and onto the circumstances. He wants us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

4.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?

 

“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:  “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:1-4).

The story of Job is a familiar one to Bible readers.  You may recall how Job and his friends debated the reasons for Job’s problems. Everyone had a say and everyone had a theory.  Job was a righteous man and could not understand why he was suddenly experiencing such misery, and he began to doubt the goodness of God.   It is interesting to note that God remained silent throughout the early discussion but eventually asks some very soul-searching questions for Job (Job 38:1-4).

Job is unable to answer the questions, which is likely the point that God was trying to make with him (and also with us).  God was, is, and will be a sovereign and omniscient God acting in power and knowledge of all things before Job (or us) even existed.  God asked Job questions in order to remind him that His ways are often beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9).  I wonder how often we doubt the goodness or justice of God in times of difficulty. In times like this we need to remember the questions of God to Job because it reminds us of His wisdom and power of our God. We can take comfort in knowing, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)

5.

Whom shall I send?

 

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. (2) Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  (Isaiah 6:1-8).

Isaiah was a prophet during one of the most turbulent periods in Judah’s history.  He saw Judah fall to Assyria.  The Lord sent Isaiah a serious question, “Whom shall I send?”  (Isaiah 6:8).  God is still asking the same question.  The Bible is full of examples of God using weak outcasts, orphans, poor, etc. to do His work.  This included Isaiah in his day but could also include us, if we answer His call.  We are all called into ministry through our baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  This is both a privilege and a responsibility.

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for asking us questions that cause us to think, learn, and grow closer to you.  Please continue to sit as a refiner of silver.  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 Biblical Path To Peace

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Want to Better Understand Your Identity?

Want to Better Understand Your Identity?

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (Lamentations 3:40 ESV).

I have some friends that are interested in genealogy.  They want to better understand themselves by tracing their ancestry back as many generations as possible.  This is a fun process and can provide some interesting anecdotes about your family tree.  I think it is natural for all of us at some point in our lives to seek to better understand ourselves.  I have taken several personality profiles and spiritual gifts assessments.  They are interesting, useful, and yield very good information to help us better understand ourselves and fine our ministry niche.

When we think about our identify we seldom think about prayer.  However, the power of prayer is beyond our wildest imagination.  James 5:16 reads, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man

availeth much.”  I note that the last word of that Scripture is “much.”  This is interesting because I feel there is “much” we don’t realize about the use of prayer as a means to understand our identify.

Prayer is supernatural because it uncovers the deepest roots of our identity.  As Christians, our deepest roots are in God.  In prayer we seek God’s face and allow God’s word to penetrate our fears and doubts so that we can begin to hear what He wants us to know.  God will reveal Himself to you and he will reveal yourself to you.  We have to be intentional through prayer in the process as instructed in Matthew 7:7.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God will reveal many things to you about your identify.  Some will be encouraging and some not.  The deepest truth of our human identity is this: “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  Since Christ lives in us and we in Him, we are also beloved children of the Father.  He is well pleased with His children.  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).

I agree that we should “test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (Lamentations 3:40 ESV).  Our faith is stronger once we have carefully examined it.  Prayer will allow us to test and examine our ways.  We will better understand ourselves and the Holy Spirit will work through us and in us so we can “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1).

PrayerWe give you thanks and praise that our identify is in you.   You know everything about us and still love us.  You are our rock and redeemer.  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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  • A Man’s Role in the Family and in the Church

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  • What Does God Want From You?

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Put Down the Phone and Truly Engage with People

Put Down the Phone and Truly Engage with People

“Do not be interested only in your own life but be interested in the lives of others” (Philippians 2:4 NCV).

Everybody is busy.  Anytime I ask somebody how they are doing the response is always “busy” or “really busy.”  Americans are over worked and over stressed.   Work has become the number one focus for many, family second, and God third (if time permits).  This is not Biblical nor healthy.  Our priorities need be examined.

I remember when smart phones were introduced into the market several years ago.  I thought they would be great to help stay connected with work when out of the office.  The problem is they are very effective at keeping us connected with work.  We are always accessible.   Many of us check our work emails at night and weekends when we are home with our families.  We check and update or social media status all day and night. 

When I go out a restaurant or a meeting, I am always surprised how many people that are sitting in a group are focused on their phones and not the group.  We are checking voice mails, emails, texts, playing video games, or listening to music.  Our friends are sitting right next to us, but we are more focused on our social media friends, some of which we have never met.

Today most of us are a slave to our phones, and we no longer pay attention to the people around us.  As Christians we are to live in community and are taught, “Do not be interested only in your own life but be interested in the lives of others” (Philippians 2:4).  How can we show interest to others when we are always on our phone?  We can’t.

On-line communications is nice and necessary, but it won’t lead to relationships that feed your soul.  To have happy and deep relationships, we need to learn the lost art of paying attention.  We need to be present when we are present. 

This is counter intuitive for many of us.  Our flesh seeks the spotlight.  We want the focus on us, and we desperately want to be liked and for others to know we are liked.  To do this, we are very active on social media and treasure our followers rather than our real friends.

I have heard it said that people will not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.  People feel good when you give them your attention.  You honor someone by giving them your time.  One of our most precious commodities is time because it cannot be restored, and we all have an unknown, finite amount of it.

So, next time you are with your family for a meal, ball game, movie, etc., give them your time and be mentally present, and just physically present.  Put the phone down and model for them what it means to be truly present.  Use active listening. when talking with friends, family, and colleagues.    The other party will then know that you are seriously listening and interested in the conversation.

Years ago, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a best-selling book “The Five Love Languages.”  One of the five is “Quality Time.”  We have quality time when we are truly present and actively listening to the other person.  Quality time is a lost love language that can help transform your relationships and help you live a happy life.

Prayer:  Dear God, There are so many voices competing for our attention.  We know that your spirit is in all of us and we honor You when we when we show sincere interest in others.   Help us to examine our priorities in life.  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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Purpose

Purpose

Purpose

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

Purpose

Planning is critical in life.  Financial planners help us get our financial matters in order and plan for retirement.  Doctors help us by establish a wellness plan when we are sick.  Business leaders make plans to bring a profit to the shareholders.  Our pastors help us to make plans that will bring honor and glory to God.  We plan to accommodate our priorities.  A priority is a value, goal, relationship, or cause of leading importance in your life:  something for which you live, the shaping value, a commitment that has first claim on you and your resources. In practice we all have priorities, whether we are aware of them or not. They may be consciously chosen or set for us by circumstances. We all pattern our lives toward some end, center our lives around some loyalty or purpose, or base our security on some trusted power.

One of Henry David Thoreau’s most frequently quoted sayings is “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I first learned of this by watching the 1989 film, Dead Poets Society.  Life without a purpose can lead to listlessness and even depression or “quiet desperation.” A life lived on purpose gives your life purpose, direction, and meaning. A person with a purpose is growing, moving toward wholeness and fulfillment. A life without purpose is aimless. 

Our purpose as disciples is to make disciples.   Matthew 28 contains The Great Commission.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

Each of us has been gifted with unique talents which we can use in our evangelism and ministry.  Our discipleship plan must discern the intersection of our gifts and interests.  This is the sweet spot for each individual ministry.  I encourage you to talk to your close friends to discern and/or confirm your gifts. 

Discernment of your ministry of discipleship is an enormous task.  However, it is one of the most important ways we can be a positive role model for our family.  Below are some ideas to consider in this regard.

Remember the lesson of Proverbs 12:15. Surround yourself with Godly people and the Holy Spirit will speak truth through them to you. Pray for discernment and recall the words of Matthew 11:15 when with your friends, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” According to my good friend Rev. Ted Fine, “The church’s role is to build communities of disciples where social justice and the general welfare of the people are protected by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Body.”  We are the church universal.

  • Give it to God
You are not God, and I am not God.  The Great Commission is a Godly task.  He does not expect for us to do this alone but with Him.  The Psalmist wrote in 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  A clean heart, a right spirit, and a dependence upon God’s providence and grace for assistance will help us to speak words and do works that bring honor to God.
Luke 2 tells the story of the birth of Christ. The angels announced His birth to the shepherds who then went to see Jesus in the manger. Later, in the same chapter, Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple to give an offering to God for the birth of their child.  The Holy Spirit had revealed to a man named Simeon that he would not see death until he had seen the birth of the Messiah. The Bible does not indicate how long Simeon waited for the birth of Christ, but the fact that it says he would not die until he saw the Savior indicates that he waited some time.  Whatever the task is that God has called us to, we need to continue doing the work even if we don’t see the progress we would like to see.

Your purpose as a Christian is the same as mine, to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are all called into ministry through our baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ.   Our ministry is a product of our gifts and talents and all ministry helps to equip the body of Christ.  Your purpose may or may not call you to pastoral ministry but be assured that your purpose is vital to the body of Christ. 

Prayer:  Dear God: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 KJV).

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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Lessons from the Lepers

Lessons from the Lepers

“Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”  (Luke 17:17 NIV)

The Word teaches us in Luke 17 that Jesus healed ten men with leprosy. Lepers were social outcasts in Bible times and were forbidden from intermingling with others in society (Leviticus 13).   These ten men were living a life of extreme agony.  Leprosy attacks the body, leaving sores, missing fingers, missing toes, and damaged limbs. In many cases, the initial pain of leprosy gives way to something more terrible than that – a loss of sensation in nerve endings, leading to more damage to more body parts.

Lepers tended to roam together, looking for food, begging for assistance from a great distance, learning to yell in loud voices, both from the need to warn others, and to beg for help from across 

the way.  What would it have been like to have been removed from friends and family for a lifetime, and to have been forced to announce yourself as “unclean” on a daily basis?  In Luke 17:11-19, ten men with leprosy encounter Jesus, and asked from a distance to be healed.

The local priests had duties other than leading worship on each Sabbath. They were also a health official. If a person was miraculously healed of leprosy, it was up to the priest to inspect the body, to test for a complete removal of the disease, and to announce the person healed. In such cases, the person would have been cleansed, and at that point, it would be fine for the leper to see his family again.

Now, Jesus says to these lepers, “Go and show yourselves to the priests… (Luke 17:14).”  He did not heal them on the spot.  He wanted to see their response.  They left to see the priests and “…as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).  They left Jesus in the same condition as what they found Him.  For the miracle to happen, these men had to start walking in faith before their circumstances had changed one tiny bit.  Many times Jesus healed and acknowledged the person’s faith.  The first recorded instance of Jesus saying, “Your faith has made you well” is found in Matthew 9:22 where Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood.

Below are a few lessons that I think we can glean from this short but powerful Scripture.

You cannot wait until the problems are over to start walking in faith.

You cannot put conditions on God. You cannot say, “Lord, as soon as I have enough money, time, or feel better I follow your instructions.  God wants us to respond as did the first disciples and follow Him now.   God loves us so much that He will give us the opportunity to be thankful when nothing seems worthy of thanks. That is the very definition of faith.

Be thankful in the work of God’s goodness.

One of the men came back to Jesus, and praised God. He was thankful. This is worship.

Express thanksgiving.

Only one healed leper came back. “Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? (Luke 17:17.”  Jesus never commanded that any of them express thankfulness to God, or return to Him.   The race of the nine that did not return is not disclosed in the Scripture.  However, if they were Jews, then they would have had the Torah and know the importance of thanksgiving to God as expressed by the Psalmist (Psalm 50:23, Psalm 100:1-5, Psalm 107:1, Psalm 118:28-29).

Jesus welcomes all.

The man that came back was a Samaritan.  Jews disliked Samaritans and viewed them as idolatrous.  The man knew that Jesus was a Jew, but he elected to put faith above race, a great example for us today.

Prayer:  Dear God:  We come to you today in need of mental, physical, or spiritual healing.  We ask in your name for Your healing.  Shine your face upon 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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