The Heart of a Child is the Key to Heaven

The Heart of a Child is the Key to Heaven

The Heart of a Child is the Key to Heaven

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV).

There is no greater gift from God than to bless your marriage with a child.  There is nothing more perfect than a baby, and it is truly a gift from above as we are taught in (James 1:17).  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Children are a reward from God.  “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).

Jesus had a special affinity for children which is well documented in the gospels.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus so loved His children that he considered it essential to become like a child to enter into eternal glory.

And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17).

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).  Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not recognize race or other differences, are free from malice, are teachable, and dependent on their parents. We all need to be daily renewed in the spirit of our minds, that we may become simple and humble, as little children, and willing to be the least of all.

Prayer:  Dear Father:  We seek nothing more than to draw near to you with the innocence of a child.  We confess our sins of adulthood and seek justification from you.  We know that you have gone before us to prepare a place for us in your Father’s House.  We thank you for the gift of children and the opportunity to come to you as your children.

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
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A Holy Calling

A Holy Calling

A Holy Calling

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12 NIV).

There are many examples in the Bible of God calling His people.  He called out to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, and to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, and Elijah in 1 Kings 19.  These are all great stories of God seeking out His people in spite of their fear or inability to recognize His voice.  God later walked the earth in the form of Jesus and continued to call people to Him.  Today, God is still calling us and waiting for us. 

I think it is easier to understand that we are being called rather than what we are being called to do.  First, please allow me a little perspective.  A good friend once told me God’s grace is not about saving you from something but rather for something.  In 2 Timothy 1:9 we read: “who saved us and called us to a holy calling.”  Your calling is your calling alone and it is from God and therefore it is pure and holy.  His calling forbids all trust in our own doings and turns us to Christ for salvation. 

If we live in unrepented sin, we become separated from God and nothing on earth can fill that void.  When we live in the Spirit, then we recognize that we will sin, due to our human condition, but we desire to not sin, due to our heavenly calling.  St. Paul states this beautifully in Romans 7:20. “ Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Is this the longing of your heart? Is this the substance of your life toward God and His divine will? In Philippians 3:13-14 we learn the importance of forgetting the past and focusing on our calling from God.  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 

Your calling should prune and purify your heart and focus your desires on heavenly treasure.   Your calling should elevate your hopes, your tastes, your desires.  Your calling should empty you of selfish earthly desires and fill you will a desire to know Him, be more like Him, and bring others to know Him.

Prayer:  Dear God please help us to find time to be alone with you to hear and understanding your calling.  Please give us the courage to take up our cross and to bring others to know you as we do.  We want to grow closer to you and ask that you help us leave behind all desires that lead to death and give us a heart that longs to see your face.  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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Wisdom from the Psalms

Wisdom from the Psalms

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands” (Psalm 119:66).

As a young child, I did not particularly enjoy reading the Psalms.  I found them to be boring, and I could not understand or relate to them.  Upon my confirmation, I received a red-letter, King James Version Bible with very thin pages and no commentary to help explain what I was reading.  Years later I overheard a man ask a preacher, “What version (King James, NIV, NRSV, etc.) of the Bible is the best?”  The preacher responded, “The best version is whatever version you will open and read.”  I think this is great advice, but I might add one small caveat.  Perhaps the best version of the Bible is the one that you read and understand.  As you mature in your faith, you will develop a deeper desire to grow in your understanding, and multiple versions and multiple commentaries will be beneficial.

The Psalms seemed to me to mainly be the cries of King David.  I did not understand his problems or his Psalms.  Later in life, I have developed a much better appreciation for the Psalms and a better understanding of David’s life.  I will never claim to be an expert on any aspect of the Bible, but I do enjoy learning more each day – some days more than others.

Most Christians will open Proverbs or James if they are seeking wisdom, and they will certainly find much wisdom.  However, the Psalms also have much wisdom to offer.  I have spent several weeks reading through the Psalms and have come away with five themes that speak to me.  I encourage you to do the same, and you may come away with different themes that speak to you.  Below are the five themes that I discerned.  They were a blessing to me, and I pray that they are a blessing to all that read this.

Teach  So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Gladden  And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, [And] oil to make his face to shine, And bread that strengtheneth man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15).

Restore  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”   (Psalm 51:12).

Satisfy  Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

Favor  For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor, You will surround him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).

Prayer:  Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14 KJV).  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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If You Want God’s Mercy, Then Give Mercy to God’s Children

If You Want God’s Mercy, Then Give Mercy to God’s Children

If You Want God’s Mercy, Then Give Mercy to God’s Children

“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7 NLT).

We all sin and want mercy.  God is quick to forgive and offer mercy when we approach Him with an earnest desire to repent from our sin.  Why is it then that as children of God we are so reluctant to offer mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Yes, forgiveness is not easy, but nobody ever promised us that a life with God would be easy.  Jesus says in Matthew 5:7, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (NLT).  In short, what you give, you’re going to get. You’ve got to learn to give mercy if you want God’s mercy for your sins.  We all want mercy for our sins and transgressions. 

But why does God want you to show mercy to others? Why is being merciful so important?  We love the mercy we get from God, but we often feel that we are entitled to withhold mercy from others.  So why should we show mercy to others?

God Has Shown Mercy To Us

Our blessings from God are not meant to be hoarded.  God wants us to pass on the mercy that you’ve received from Him.  Ephesians 2:4-5 reads, “God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience, He brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved” (GNT).

God Commands Mercy

God has clearly told us what is required of us. “The Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 GW).

We All Have A Constant Need For Mercy

We will all make more mistakes and sins between today and the day of our death.  So, we will all need God’s mercy in the future as much as in the past.  God will not give to us what we will not give to others.  James 2:13 teaches, “You must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment” (NCV).

Showing Mercy Brings Joy

We reach in Matthew 5:7 that God blesses those who are merciful.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (NIV).  The word “blessed” also means “happy,” so the more you practice giving mercy, the happier and more blessed you’re going to be.

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for the mercy and forgiveness that you have given to us all.  Please help us to offer mercy to others in the same way that you offer it to 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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  • Live Life Now!



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Knowledge

Knowledge

Knowledge

My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the LORD grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:1-6 NLT).

I think society tends to confuse knowledge with education.  However, a person can have extensive education and college degrees and not necessarily be very knowledgeable.   Perhaps they were a poor student and just did the minimum to get by or maybe they have not kept current in their field over the years.  If I memorize chemical reactions, mathematical equations, and even scripture, then I have developed some knowledge on the subject, albeit somewhat superficial.

Education is fine and knowledge is great.  However, a person that has understanding of a subject has mastered the topic and is on the path to wisdom.  To understand something goes far beyond education and knowledge.   A person with understanding can use their education and knowledge to figure out (understand) any new situation or problem Proverbs 2:1-6 gives us insight into knowledge.  “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the LORD grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

It is important at this point to acknowledge that everything we have is from God, and this includes our education, wisdom, and understanding.   God wants us to “tune your ears to wisdom” which means listen to those who know more than you do.  “Concentrate on understanding” is an invitation to use your God-given brain to move beyond memorization or superficial knowledge and strive to understand.  God is giving us advice on how to better understand Him.  Once we better understand God we can use this knowledge to live a Godly life and bring others to Him.  Knowledge of God is essential for discipleship.  How can you follow God if you have no understanding of Him?  

Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the blessings of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Help us to use these gifts to make wise decisions that bring honor and glory to 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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Resolve to Rest

Resolve to Rest

Resolve to Rest

“Crowds of people were coming and going so that Jesus and his followers did not even have time to eat. He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves, and we will go to a lonely place to get some rest’” (Mark 6:31 NCV).

Each year our lives get busier.  We have more responsibilities at home, work, and church.  According to a recent ABC news report, 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.  Now, add on to this our responsibilities with our family, church, and other community organizations.  Each year we all get busier and rest becomes more evasive. 

When I think about Jesus, I first think about the miracles.  I also think about His teaching and The Sermon on the Mount.  I am certainly most grateful for Him dying for our sins and conquering death for us all.   One image that does not come to mind is Jesus resting. 

Jesus modelled rest to us as a means of obedience to the Father.  You may recall that Jesus did not come to replace the law of Moses but rather to fulfill it.   Matthew 5:17 teaches, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  One of the Ten Commandments given to Moses was to set aside time for rest.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Jesus retreated from the crowds to find rest for Himself and His disciples.  According to Mark 6:31, “Crowds of people were coming and going so that Jesus and his followers did not even have time to eat. He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves, and we will go to a lonely place to get some rest.’”  God wants us to life a joy-filled life.  He also wants us to show His love to others.  He realizes that we can do neither if we are worn out.  If we recognize the true importance of our bodies as indicated in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, then rest seems more essential than a luxury.  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 

As we enter a new year, I encourage you to honor God with your bodies by seeking rest to renew your mind, body, and soul.

Prayer:  Dear God, We live busy, hectic lives.  We are tired and need rest but often feel guilty if we seek rest.  Help us to understand that in rest we honor you and obey your commands.  As we rest, give us the assurance that you are with us and we are with you.  Awaken us from our rest with a renewed determination to seek your face and do your will.

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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    Loneliness: There’s A Time To Give And Time To Receive

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Judgment or Grace?

Judgment or Grace?

Judgment or Grace?

“…Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin”  (John 8:11 NIV).

John 8:1-11 tells us the story of a woman caught in adultery.  The religious leaders, the Pharisees, tried to use her sin to force Jesus to support their decision to stone her to death, which was in accordance with Mosaic law. 

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

I think this is very powerful scripture and conveys an example of prevenient grace.  I have struggled with this scripture because I felt that it contradicted Matthew 5:17-19.

17 Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Upon deeper reflection, we see that Jesus “did not come to abolish the law of Moses.”  Therefore, shouldn’t He support the stoning of the woman?  However, He gives us some insight as to the purpose of His coming when He states, “I came to accomplish their purpose.”  So, this raises the question, what was their purpose?  Not to be overly simplistic, but I feel their purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus who offers a new covenant based on grace.  The epistles of Paul clearly indicate that Christians are no longer under the rule of the Mosaic law.  This is clearly stated in Rom. 6:14; 7:1-14; Gal. 3:10-13, 24-25; 4:21; 5:1; 13; 2 Cor. 3:7-18.   It is interesting to note that the Ten Commandments were certainly a component of the law of Moses, but most modern Christians, including myself, believe they are still relevant today.

So, back to the woman that committed adultery.  Jesus did not enforce the law of Moses but showed her grace.  However, He did not condone her sin.  I think it is noteworthy that His last words to her were “Go and sin no more.”  Imagine a world in which we all offer grace to sinners (each other) and encouragement rather than judgment.  To me, this would be the answer to the Lord’s Prayer in which we pray “your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). 

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for the daily grace that you offer us.  Please give us the wisdom and courage to offer grace to others.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Meet the Author

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

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Seeing Jesus Through the Crowd

Seeing Jesus Through the Crowd

Seeing Jesus Through the Crowd

1 Jesus was going through the city of Jericho. A man was there named Zacchaeus, who was a very important tax collector, and he was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because he was too short to see above the crowd. He ran ahead to a place where Jesus would come, and he climbed a sycamore tree so he could see him. When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down! I must stay at your house today.”  Zacchaeus came down quickly and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to complain, “Jesus is staying with a sinner!”  But Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “I will give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times more.”  Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today, because this man also belongs to the family of Abraham. 10 The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them”  (Luke 19:1-10).

Luke 19:1-10 is a short but powerful passage about Jesus and a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus.  The Jewish people were under Roman occupation. An unfair tax was extracted by people like Zacchaeus. They earned their living by adding an extra surcharge for themselves. These Jews were considered traitors. However, they were still Jews, sons of the Covenant and children of Abraham.  Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus more than he wanted to maintain his economic comfort. Jesus knew that. He had come to Jericho that day seeking to save the lost. He knew Zacchaeus like He knows each one of us. The “crowds” around Zacchaeus may have deemed him as unworthy of the encounter that was about to occur, but God did not see him this way. Jesus saw Zacchaeus heart and he drew him to Himself.

Each one of us should find hope in this story because, literally or figuratively, we have compromised in our lives.  Perhaps in our family, by failing to love and lead in the way that we know we ought, sacrificially. Perhaps in our church by failing to step out in faith and give a full tithe.  Perhaps in our community by not responding to the call of those in need.

The Good News is that, no matter what has happened in our past, Jesus walks into the muddy streets of our own lives this day.  He comes for us. We can surely learn some lessons from Zacchaeus from his time in a Sycamore tree.

  • I think the Lord specifically came to Jericho for Zacchaeus, and He continues to meet each of us wherever we are in life – in church, on a mountain, in a valley, or up a tree.
  • It is important to note that Zacchaeus did not need to get the Lord’s attention and neither do we. Jesus comes into each one of our lives, searching for us, because He still comes to seek and save what was lost. We often think of the Christian life in terms of our efforts to reach God and to do His will. However, the opposite is what really occurs.  God seeks us and we respond. He stands at the door and knocks and awaits our response.
  • We need to “position” ourselves for the meeting. In contemporary terms, the term “be intentional” is often used to encourage proper positioning.  Zacchaeus climbed that tree to see Jesus; he positioned himself for the encounter. Can you imagine his emotions upon hearing Jesus say, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:9).
  • Salvation is a gift that Christ offers to us all regardless of our profession, race, gender, etc. In Ephesians 2:8 we learn, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  Our faith provides salvation, which provides life everlasting.
  • The Christian life is about God’s action and our response to what He is already doing. Jesus reminds us “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Zacchaeus serves to remind us of who does the choosing and who does the responding. Zacchaeus climbed the tree in order to see the Lord, not to be seen by Jesus. He did not care what the crowd thought of a grown man climbing a tree! He went after the encounter with Jesus Christ with a childlike simplicity and a reckless abandon.  We should all strive to do the same.

Prayer:  Dear God, We want to climb a tree to see your face.  Help us to realize that when we see our neighbors, we are seeing you.  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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Why Did Jesus Cry
Before Raising Lazarus?

Scripture: “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  (John 11:4-7).

One of the most fascinating Biblical stories is the raising of Lazarus as described in John 11.  Many of us learned this story as children in Sunday school.  It is an amazing story of how Jesus raised his friend from the dead.  It is yet another example of the divinity and love of Jesus.  In this story, Jesus cries.   Jesus is showing us all, and perhaps men in particular, that it is ok to cry.  Jesus was divine and also human.  In his human condition, he displayed all of the traits of a true masculine man, which includes weeping and showing empathy for your friends. 

Mary and Martha were sisters and friends of Jesus.  Their friendship is detailed in Luke 10.  The sisters and Lazarus were all from the same village of Bethany and were all friends of Jesus.  The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick.  “When He heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days, and then He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (Luke 10:4-7).

Jesus later reveals to His disciples that their friend Lazarus is dead.  “So then He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”   (Luke 10:14-15).  Jesus is indicating that He will use the death of his friend as an opportunity to display His divinity to His disciples. 

The chapter reaches its peak upon the arrival of Jesus.  “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept.” (Luke 10:32-35).

As a youth, I was taught that Jesus cried because He was upset because the two sisters were crying over the death of their friend.  This is very likely and perhaps is the reason for His display of emotion.  However, I was talking with a friend a few years ago, and he indicated a different possible reason that Jesus cried.  My friend suggested Jesus knew of the beauty and peace of heaven.  Jesus also knew that in order to demonstrate His divinity to His disciples, He would   bring Lazarus back from the dead.  So, is it not logical that Jesus was saddened that His friend would be leaving paradise to return to earth?  The real reason that Jesus cried is unknown.  However, what is clearly known is that He did raise Lazarus from the dead and through the death and resurrection of Jesus we have forgiveness of our sins and shall be raised from our death and join Him in glory.

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for the gifts of compassion and empathy.  Help us to seek out opportunities to be a vessel of your peace and grace to others.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Meet the Author

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

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Boundaries Benefit All

Boundaries Benefit All
Boundaries Benefit All

Boundaries Benefit All

“Moses’ father-in-law replied, What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18 NIV).

I just finished reading a book called “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  It is a New York Times Bestseller and has sold over two million copies since it was first published in 1992 and then revised in 2017.  This is a Christian book that uses appropriate Scripture to help readers take control of their lives by learning when to say yes and when to say no.  The authors tell us, “Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries.  Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”  This book has largely been bought by parents trying to set boundaries for their children.  Also, the book has other chapters on how to set healthy boundaries on your family, friends, spouse, work, and work and even yourself. 

Many of us consider boundaries to be selfish and feel guilty about setting a boundary.  The authors tell us, “Misinformation about the Bible’s answers to these issues has led to much wrong teaching about boundaries.  Many clinical physiological problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, addictions, impulse disorders, guilt problems, shame issues, panic disorders, and marital and relational struggles, find their roots in conflicts with boundaries. 

First, a little clarification on boundaries is in order.  We are responsible to others and for ourselves.  “Carry each other’s burdens,” teaches Galatians 6:2, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Yes, we are responsible to one another.  Galatians 6:5 teaches us that, “each one should carry their own load.”   The key to understanding these verses is to understand the Greek word for burden which means “excess burdens” or burdens that are so heavy they weigh us down.  The authors state that these burdens are like boulders and we shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves.  In contrast, the Green word for load means “cargo” or the “burden of daily toil.”  These loads are like knapsacks which we can carry by ourselves.  You may see this coming……  “Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.  The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.” 

Boundaries are not walls.  The Bible does not say that we are to be “walled off” from one another but rather be “one” with them (John 17:11).  Cloud and Townsend write that we are “to be in community with others.  But in every community, all members have their own space and property.  The important thing is that property lines be permeable enough to allow passing and strong enough to  keep out danger.”  God has set boundaries.  He does not allow evil into His house.  He does allow in those who “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

In Exodus 18, we learn how Jethro, father-in-law, to Moses helps Moses to set boundaries. 

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” (Exodus 18:14).  In Exodus 18:17-18, Jethro tells Moses, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”  Jethro encouraged Moses to select Elders to serve as judges for the simple cases and only bring the difficult cases to Moses.   

In Mark 6:31, we learn that the crowds following Jesus and His disciples were growing and preventing them from eating.  ”Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Jesus recognized that to do God’s work effectively we need periodic rest and renewal.

Prayer:   Dear God,  Help us to set boundaries that bring honor to 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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