Nurture Your Friendships

Nurture Your Friendships
Nurture Your Friendships

Nurture Your Friendships

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4 NIV).

I love to grow plants.  Every gardener knows that the key to a bountiful harvest of flowers, fruits, or vegetables is to carefully nurture the plants.  Gardening is a test of patience.  We plant and then wait. 

Our friendships are similar to gardening in that both require nurturing.  If we don’t feed our relationships with our friends, we will eventually have no friends.  Life is about priorities.  We make time for the things and the people that are important to us.  A friendship with God is like any other friendship—you have to make time for it.  God is a jealous God and does not want you to have any false gods before Him (Exodus 34:14).   The Word teaches us in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God.”  If God is your best friend, then doesn’t He deserve your best?

So, how do you build a deep friendship with God?  This is a life-long process of growing closer each day.  Some days I make more progress than others.  Below are a few tips I have learned over the years.

1.

Slow down.

We all live busy lives.  We tend to focus on what is in front of us.  There is so much noise in our lives.  God is not going to try to out shout all the other voices in your life.  To build a relationship with God requires us to slow down, be quiet, and listen. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Think about how many times Jesus sought out a quiet place to be alone with the Father.

2.

Seek Him

Psalm 25:14 teaches, “Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him. With them alone He shares the secrets of his promises.”  A blessing for the righteousness is friendship with God.  Our righteousness is not from our own doing but is the fruit of our faith in Jesus.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 6:33. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  A friendship with God requires us to slow down and turn away from the desires of the secular world and intentionally turn toward the desires of the Spirit.

Throughout Scripture, God provides invitations for a relationship with us.  The key is how we respond to the invitation.   The invitation is given to all but not all respond so not all bear good fruit.  The Parable of the Sower is a parable of Jesus found in the three Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15.  This Parable illustrates that sower sows the Word but not all respond positively.

Prayer:  Dear God, We want to hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold but not for our own glory but for yours.  Help us to find time to nurture our relationship with you so we can bear good fruit to help build Your kingdom.  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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Keep Your Eye On The Prize

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)

We all have so many distractions that it is very hard to stay focused.  We all want to obey the first commandment and put God first in our lives, but we are pulled in so many directions from family, work, and friends.  I love the expression “keep your eye on the prize.”  It is often associated with athletes that are focused on performing at the highest possible level.   The Bible speaks to this in 1 Cor. 9:25 “All athletes are disciplined in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”  As Christians, we must realize that our ultimate prize will not be found on earth, but it is much greater than any earthly prize.

Scripture teaches us how to achieve our prize by storing up our treasure.  “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.” (Matt. 6:19-21).  We store up our treasures in heaven each time we “feed His sheep” (John 21:17) and each time we see someone hungry and provide food, see someone thirty and provide something to drink, see a stranger and invite them in, or someone in need of clothes and provide clothing, and see someone sick in prison and go to visit.  (see Matt. 25:31-40).

We all have been given a unique gift and role to help build up the body of Christ.  Luke 9:62 warns against distraction from our roles.  “Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the kingdom of God”  (Luke 9:62).  Many people express a desire to be used by God but sadly they will not.  They are exercising their free will and have decided that they are too busy.  They are “… wise in their own eyes…” (Proverbs 3:7).  They want to climb the corporate ladder, or want to buy a second house, or purchase other earthy treasures.  These are fine goals but should receive priority over God.    In the midst of their busyness, they try to carve out a little sliver from the pie of life and give it to God.  This is the definition of a lukewarm Christian.  The Bible speaks to this attitude in Rev. 3:16-18.

 “So I will spit you out of my mouth, because you are only warm and not hot or cold.You say, `I am rich and have many things. I need nothing.’ You do not know that you are in trouble and need help. You are poor. You are blind. And you have no clothes to wear. I tell you what you should do. You should buy from me gold that has been made clean by fire. Then you will be rich. And you should buy from me white clothes to wear. Then people will not see that you have no clothes, and you will not be ashamed. You should buy from me healing oil to put on your eyes. Then you will be able to see.”

If we are serious about being used by God, we must pray for God’s help to discern what we must prune so that time can be freed and then use the gift of time wisely.  We all have 24 hours in a day, but we all don’t use our time for the same purpose.  God has laid out a race for us all to run.  Adversity will come and try to slow you down.  Each time we must meet adversity with perseverance.

I feel that the enemy really enjoys keeping good people busy with church activities that have little or no impact on The Kingdom.  Much of our busyness is cast on us by the enemy as a means to keep us occupied and away from Kingdom building – time alone with God, ministry, mission, and reading The Word.

Prayer:  Dear God, We want to use the talents that you gave us to join with fellow Christians to build your Kingdom on earth.  Help us to use our secular responsibilities in such a way that they bring glory to You.  Help us avoid meaningless busy work that does bear good fruit.  We know that you sit as a refiner of silver.  Burn off our impurities and help us lead a more Christ-like life each day.  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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Meal Time is Ministry Time

Meal Time is Ministry Time

When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them” (Luke 24:30 NIV).

Many people have the false notion that ministry only occurs inside the walls of the local church.  The truth is we go to worship on Sunday to be fed the Word so that we can be the hands and feet of Christ – to feed others.  However, it should be noted that we need to feed ourselves throughout the week by reading Scripture, prayer and meditation, and small groups.

We are all ministers.  We are all called into ministry through our baptism and profession of faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  We all have a ministry that 

we have been gifted with through the gifts and graces of the Spirit.  The big question is how and where should we do our ministry?  The Spirit will guide you in this and close, Christian friends will affirm you as appropriate.

Jesus is the perfect role model for ministry.  Yes, he did ministry in the temple by teaching to His fellow Jews.  However, the vast majority of His ministry was done outside of the temple.  It is interesting to me how many times in Luke’s Gospel Jesus sits around a table for a meal.  He regularly shared meals with others, whether they were Pharisees, sinners and tax collectors, or His disciples.  Scripture provides us the ability to learn more of what He teaches about His heavenly Father on these occasions than from what He says in the synagogue.

Meal time is an ideal time not only for fellowship but also to drill down deeper to offer a word of hope, grace, peace, and love.  Meals at the table are some of Jesus’ favorite settings for Him to make visible to others the good news of God’s mercy and acceptance of all people.

One of the primary roles of a husband as stated in the Bible is to lead his family to Christ.  Meal time is a perfect opportunity for the husband to lead by giving thanks to God for the food and all the blessings that He has provided.  Leadership simply means influence. Therefore, a biblically-based husband should influence his family. Husbands are not dictators, they should not demand, they should not rule over their wives. Instead, husbands should influence their wives and families in accordance with biblical teaching. They should exemplify, with their voice and their actions, attributes that bring glory to God and value and honor to their spouse and family.

Meal time is ministry time.  Men, I encourage you to serve your family by leading them in prayer at this time.  The fruit of a good biblically-based husband is a strong, confident, spiritually mature wife and family. 

Prayer:  Dear God:  We are blessed to have an abundance of food.  May we always be grateful that you are the provider of this and all of our blessings including our families.  Please help us to lead our families in such a way that brings honor and glory 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 Stranger

The Stranger
The Stranger

The Stranger

“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).

A friend recently told me an amazing story of kindness that begin with the simple words “excuse me.”  She was walking to her car in a parking lot when a voice from behind called out to her, “excuse me.”  She froze for a second and did not immediately respond.  She thought that this is likely a con man or a beggar wanting a hand out.  Questions raced through her mind.  Why doesn’t he get a job?  If I give him money, is he going to use it to buy drugs?  Doesn’t he realize that I have stuff to do? 

She turned and looked at the man and before she could respond she saw a man with no arms.  She was shocked but managed to respond,  “yes?”  The man said, “I am sorry ma’am, but I have not eaten for a few days and if you could find it in your heart to buy me some food, I would be very grateful.” 

She told me that she knew that this man was authentic because he was not asking for money.  He was kind and polite and it seemed sincere as if it was natural part of his inner being.  She responded, “yes let’s go to the Wendy’s next door and I will eat with you.”

As they sat and ate the man told her that he was a military veteran and was wounded in action.   She was cautious that he may be lying but was reassured by an inner voice in her head that he was sincere.  As they finished the meal, she told the man to go back and order more food to take with him – whatever he wanted.  He did so.  He then thanked my friend and prayed a blessing over her and left.   She said that by the time he left she felt a calming presence from him that she had never felt before.  He was gentle and humble.

Now as I reflect back on the story, I see the hand of God.  First, the man approached my friend and waited for her response.   Doesn’t that sound like the invitation “Come to me” (Matthew 11:28) that God extends to us and waits for our response “Come to me” (Matthew 11:28).

Then, I noticed that my friend agreed to provide food for the stranger.  Doesn’t that sound like the command “Feed my sheep” that Jesus gave Peter in John 21:17.

Finally, as he left, I note that my friend felt a gentle and humble presence.  Doesn’t that sound like how Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:29 – “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

We are all children of God. I have no doubt that my friend met Jesus that day. The Holy Spirit is in each of us so we met Jesus each day when we meet each other. Imagine if we treat each stranger we meet as the child of God.  Imagine.

Prayer:  Dear God:  You are truly gentle and humble in heart.  Create in us a new heart that is also gentle, humble, and seeks only to please you.  Help us to see You in everyone that we meet.  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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We Grow In The Light

We Grow In The Light

We Grow In The Light

“But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:7-8 NCV).

We Grow In The Light

Light is essential for all life on earth.  Many plants will alter their growth to maximize the amount of light that their leaves can capture.  I love watching sunflowers move as the sun changes positions in the sky. 

The secular world thinks intimacy occurs in the dark, but true intimacy only occurs in the light. Jesus taught us in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  True intimacy is a close relationship with Jesus Christ and that comes when we bring our entire life to His light, which is the only true light.  He is the light of the world!

We tend to use darkness to hide our hurts, faults, fears, failures and flaws. But in the light, we bring them all out into the open and admit who we really are.  I am reminded of the story in John 3 of Nicodemus.  He was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, but he knew that God was with Jesus.  It is important to note that in the second verse of John 3 it begins, “He came to Jesus at night…” (John 3:2).  Nicodemus was using the darkness to hide his fear of being seen with Jesus.  This is ironic because he was using darkness as a cover to go see the light of the world.

For us as Christians to grow we need meaningful relationships.  This requires us to be authentic and humble.  This is the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy.  In this atmosphere, we can bring our sins out to the light among our trusted friends.  James 5:16 teaches, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16).

Authenticity is rare today.  It only happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives.  It happens when people share their hurts, reveal their true feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, and ask for help and prayer.

If we become open about our lives, we experience the blessing of authentic fellowship. The Bible instructs, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).   What a friend we have in Jesus!

Prayer:  As a moth is attracted to an artificial light, our souls are attracted to you dear God – the light of the world.  Continue to draw us closer to your way, truth, and light.   In Jesus name we pray.  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 Does God Want From You?

What Does God Want From You?
What Does God Want From You?

What Does God Want From You?

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 NIV).

Through our prayers and petitions we make it very clear what we want from God, but have you ever stopped to think what does God want from me?  I had a friend once tell me that for years he viewed God as a “mystical vending machine.”  Many Christians believe that if we give our tithes and offerings to our local church, then we have “done our part.”  Moreover, we sometimes confuse God with Santa Claus and think that if we are outwardly religious such as attending church every Sunday and volunteering for church activities then we will get an extra helping of God’s favor.

So, once we do our part, it is time for God to do his part, right?  This is the basis behind the mystical vending machine theory – I put money in and then I  get to select what I want to come out.  Tithing is a good thing and a ten percent tithe is not only encouraged in Scripture but comes with a great promise of provision.  Malachi 3:10 reads, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  God is pleased when we return to Him our first fruits.  The key to giving is to give with a pure heart.  Give with a desire that others will be blessed.  Give to God because you trust in Him.  Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day by, saying, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42).

Please note that I used the term “outwardly religious” in the first paragraph.  Now, please consider the words of Matthew 23:26-28.  “26 You blind proud religious law-keepers! Clean the inside of the cup and plate, then the outside will be clean also.27 “It is bad for you, teachers of the Law and proud religious law-keepers, you who pretend to be someone you are not! You are like graves that have been made white and look beautiful on the outside. But inside you are full of the bones of dead men and of every sinful thing. 28 As men look at you, you seem to be good and right but inside you are full of sin. You pretend to be someone you are not.”

God doesn’t want a phony.  He does not need our offerings but is pleased when our offerings are given as a sincere manifestation of our faith.  What He does desire is a relationship.  In Hosea 6:6, God says, “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know Me” (Hosea 6:6). That’s the first purpose of life. The most important thing you can know is that God created you so that He can love you. And the most important thing you can do in life is to know and love Him.

Prayer:  Dear God prune us from everything that separates us from you.  Send forth your Holy Spirit to draw us closer to You.  Grant us a peace that transcends all understanding as we grow closer to You.  Give us a pure heart that seeks Your face and sincerely desires to honor You in all that we think, say, and do.  We love, seek you, and need you this day and every day.  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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Service is Ministry

Service is Ministry

Service is Ministry

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  (Galatians 6:10 NIV)

Service is Ministry

We live in a self-serving secular world in which people act to serve their own self interests.  I had a dear friend that has gone on to Glory but on earth he worked as an economist.  He claimed that the entire system of economic theory is so purely deductive that everything in it can be deduced from one essential axiom.   The rationality axiom states that “a rational person maximizes his/her utility.” Some economists will substitute “utility” with “self-interest,” or “well-being.”  This statement has often been interpreted to mean that the pursuit of self-interest is the only thing that is done by rational economic people and that anything else is irrational. This theory has been criticized by some economists, but it still raises an interesting point.  If we serve others are we acting in an irrational manner or are we displaying true leadership, as modeled by Jesus, by being a servant leader?

In my opinion, service to others is the heart of Christianity and the visible sign of a disciple.  We can give our service to God and the Bible refers to this as “storing up treasure in Heaven.”   When we give our talents and resources to others are we not engaging in Christian ministry?  Each of us was made for ministry.  Each of us has been given unique talents to build up the Body of Christ.  “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…” (Romans 12:6).  Not all of us are called to ministry or capable of physical labor.  However, these are just a few of the numerous possible ministries.  I once heard of a woman that had a unique ministry of prayer.  Each day she opened up her local newspaper and prayed for the newborn babies and for the newly married couples.  When asked why she did not pray for those listed in the obituaries she responded.  I rejoice for them for they have entered into eternal glory for our loving God.  Ministry can also be listening to others that are having a tough day, making it known that your house is always open to talk with those hurting.  God has gifted us all with the ability to smile.  A ministry of smiling can have a tremendous positive impact on others.

Let’s return back to the economic discussion.  We all know the basic economic principle of supply and demand.  For most goods or services, there is a finite supply.  However, it is important to realize that our “demands” (e.g., prayers and petitions) on God can never exceed His infinite supply of grace.  In short, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39).  So we are justified in Christ Jesus and have the confidence that He goes with us as we go to do ministry that he has prepared for us.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). 

So, why should we do ministry?  The Bible says, “This service you do not only helps the needs of God’s people, it also brings many more thanks to God. It is a proof of your faith. Many people will praise God because you obey the Good News of Christ—the gospel you say you believe—and because you freely share with them and with all others” (2 Corinthians 9:12-13).  Ministry is fulfilling The Great Commission.  How you engage in ministry is a process of constant discernment.

Prayer:  Dear God, We seek to share your love with others.  We desire to have a meaningful ministry that will glorify your name.  We need your help each day to identify opportunities for ministry.  Equip us with Your love and wisdom and we walk with the peace that surely you will be with us until the end of the age.

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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Special Needs Children & Special Needs Families

Special Needs Children & Special Needs Families
Special Needs Children & Special Needs Families

Special Needs Children & Special Needs Families

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).

My second child, Kyle, was born May 24, 2002. He was a big, healthy baby and was, and will always be, a tremendous blessing to me. We noticed at an early age that he was not reaching the typical milestones for babies and toddlers in terms of walking, talking, etc. We had him tested for hearing loss, brain function, blood tests and more. All of the tests came back normal, but his development was not normal. In particular, he showed little interest in talking and had a very limited vocabulary.

Eventually, we received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified). I remember looking at that and thinking, “Okay, now we know what we have, so let’s make a plan to fix it.” However, I later realized that his autism is a spectrum disorder with no known cure, and the spectrum covers patients identified as high functioning to severe. To me, the diagnosis sounded more like — We don’t really know what your child has so we created a category and called it PDD-NOS instead of WDK (we don’t know).

Families with a special needs child have special needs of their own — schools, churches, restaurants, dentists, etc. that are accommodating to special needs children. We were blessed to find an excellent Pre-K program at Southdowns Elementary in Baton Rouge. However, Kyle aged out of the program and we were left looking at options that ranged from lousy to expensive. We declined lousy and hired a private teacher to work with our son. Also, our church was accommodating and invited us to attend several meetings to discuss setting up a special needs Sunday School room.

I have heard some parents say that when they received the diagnosis of autism, they felt as if part of their child had died, that their dreams and hopes for their child had been shattered and that their child would not live a “typical” life. I never felt that way. I believe in continuous improvement. So Kyle goes to school all year long. This is expensive, but it is best for his development.

I realize that there are many things he will never do, such as get married, drive a car, or play high school sports — and that is fine with me. I focus on the things that he can do. He can go for walks with me and hold my hand. He can go to the movies with me and share a tub of popcorn and a soda while we enjoy an animated movie. He enjoys playing fetch with our dog. And he can give the best hugs that will cure a headache much better than any aspirin.

A child with special needs certainly puts a strain on any marriage. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that parents with ASD children were nearly twice as likely to get divorced than couples without disabled children. The study revealed something else interesting: the divorce rates in parents with disabled children did not increase until the children became teens or adults. My own marriage ended after 20 years when Kyle was 12 years old.

Kyle has a bright future, and I want him to become as independent as possible. Like other children, he yearns for his father’s approval and I try to always acknowledge every good thing that he does. So there is no need to change or “cure” Kyle. He is perfect just as he is. He is a child of God and a tremendous blessing to me. I want him to live a happy life.

We hold hands and pray before each meal. I offer the blessing and then gently squeeze his hand at the end and he clearly and proudly says, “Amen!” Kyle is a blessing to me and has taught me so much about what is really important in life.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of children.  Be with us as we raise them to reach their full potential as Your children.  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 Importance of Christian Study

The Importance of Christian Study

The Importance of Christian Study

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV).

For many of us the thought of studying brings back memories of cramming for exams in high school or college.  Many men would rather engage in Christian action rather than Christian study.  Through action we can see the fruits of our labor and be the Body of Christ in our neighborhood and beyond.

Our goal as Christians should be to develop an intimate relationship with God.  There are many paths in which God can reveal Himself to us:  prayer, worship, sacred moments, and fellowship with fellow Christians.   For us to have a relationship with God, we must actively seek him.  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jer. 29:13.  The Bible is perhaps God’s most direct means of revealing Himself to us.

Have you ever heard the expression “Stay in the Word?”  I always thought that this was encouragement to read the Bible.  However, after reading the Bible we begin to learn that the Word is more than just a book.  The Word is God himself!  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  The Word can also refer to Jesus.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.  (John 1:14).  As we read scripture the Holy Spirit will help us to understand the message that God has for us.  Therefore, we should not be surprised when different people read the same scripture and come away with different interpretations.  They all have the right interpretation – for them.  The Word is also alive.  So, you can read the same scripture for years and then one day something clicks and you have an epiphany and now you see a different meaning, application, or interpretation of the same scripture.  This is truly the work of the Spirit delivering the right message to you at the right time.

Knowledge and application of scripture opens your heart to Christ.  As we mature as Christians we try to grow closer to Christ.  We want to seek His face and become more Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions.  Paul addresses this notion in 2 Cor 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”  Some may debate is the Bible the word of God or is it a book about God that was written by men?  For me, the answer to this question can be found in 2 Tim. 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” 

Looking at the Greek word for “God breathed” or as some translations say, “breathed out” is “theopneustos” and means “inspired by God” or literally the very “breath of God.”  I believe that the Word of God is God’s breathing out His literal Word.  The breath of God is all powerful and can even raise dry bones to life.  “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army” (Ezekiel 37:9-10).

Scripture is inspired by God.  We know that “prophecy was never produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  It’s important to note that the word “prophecy” does not mean, in this context, predicting the future.  The Greek word “prophēteia” means “a discourse emanating from divine inspiration.”  Therefore, we can say that all Scripture is God’s breathed words and emanates from a divine (God’s) inspiration.  In other words, the Word of God is not of human origin but originates from God Himself and to study scripture is to study God himself.

We should study scripture because it is totally reliable and without error.  We should read and study the Bible because God does not change; it is as relevant for us as it was when it was written.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever”  (Isaiah 40:8).

While technology and culture changes, mankind’s nature and sinful desires do not change.  We find, as we read scripture, “there is nothing new under the sun”  (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Mankind as a whole continues to seek answers and comfort in the wrong places.  The Bible, is so important that Jesus said of it, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  In other words, if we want to live life to the fullest, as God intended, we must listen to and heed God’s written Word.  The Word is the only offensive weapon in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:17).

The Bible gives us a pathway to salvation and how one truly gets to heaven.  God’s Word shows us just how much God loves us (Romans 5:6-8John 3:16).  We are drawn to love Him in return (1 John 4:19).  God extends grace upon grace to us.

You cannot lead if you are not equipped.  The Bible equips us to serve God (2 Timothy 3:17Ephesians 6:17Hebrews 4:12). Scripture helps us understand how to be saved from our sin and its road to death (2 Timothy 3:15). Meditating on God’s Word and obedience will bring success in life (Joshua 1:8James 1:25).  God’s Word helps us to identify sin in our lives and remove it (Psalm 119:911).  It gives us guidance in life and makes our paths straight (Psalm 32:8119:99Proverbs 3:5-6).  Life is full of dangerous snares but the Word will show you the way.  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough just how important the Bible is to our lives.  Studying the Bible can be compared to most anything else in life.  The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.  I have heard it said before that it is important to know the Bible because you may be the only Bible that somebody else may ever see.

Prayer:  Dear God, Send Your Holy Spirit to teach us as we read Scripture so that we are reading Words of 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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    The ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ Attributes2

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The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, His holy dwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 30:27 NIV)

It is important to understand that the power of prayer does not come from us.  Prayer is not special words we say or the special way we say them or even how often we say them.  The length of our prayer is also not important.  Powerful prayer is not made by standing on the street corner with dirt on your face or any other means to show others your piety.  The power of prayer is not based on a certain direction we face or clothes.  Moreover, a powerful prayer does not require candles or beads.

The power of prayer comes from God alone who hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer is a “hotline” that places us in contact with Almighty God, and we should expect almighty results,

whether or not He chooses to grant our petitions or deny our requests.  Our prayers never receive a “busy signal.”  Whatever the answer to our prayers, the God to whom we pray is the source of the power of prayer, and He can and will answer us, according to His perfect will and timing.  We pray with joy, thanksgiving, and anticipation because we know that our loving Father hears us and wants good for us.  We wait with child-like wonder to see how and when God is going to move.

Prayer is the first step of the Christian in any situation.  God wants His people to pray to Him for petitions and thanksgiving. Prayer to God should be made persistently (Luke 18:1), with joy (Philippians 4:6), in faith (James 1:5), within the will of God (Matthew 6:10), for the glory of God (John 14:13-14), and from a heart right with God (James 5:16).   “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).  There is absolutely nothing that cannot be accomplished through prayer if it is consistent with His will.  And prayer is never futile. True prayer is always true power. You may not always get what you ask, but you shall always have your real needs supplied.

I think the ultimate power of prayer comes when we pray for those that have hurt us the most.  Matthew 5:44 teaches us, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Once we truly understand this and do it with sincerity, a supernatural peace will come upon us and the hurt will be a distant memory compared to the ever-present love of God.

Prayer:  Thank you for the power of prayer and the peace that comes from knowing you hear all of our prayers.  Help up to pray with joy and confidence and then wait patiently for your mighty hand.  Dear God, please help us to sincerely pray blessings for those who persecute us, and as we do so with the knowledge that you will be glorified.

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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