Who Is A Righteous Man?

Who Is A Righteous Man?

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye me be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:15 KJV).

 

During the Great Awakening of the 18th century, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, believed that justifying grace is only the door to salvation, and sanctification is the house.  The key to the spiritual revival in England and America, in his opinion, was for small groups of same gender people to come together in bands, and the meetings were known as band meetings.  The meetings were structured to allow for mutual accountability, where spiritual friends confessed sin without fear of condemnation.  The goal was not to offer judgement but rather to offer a time and place to pursue holiness together.  Members were given tickets after each meeting, which were necessary to attend church on Sunday.  The participants were regularly asked five questions of one another:

5 Questions to Ask During a Band Meeting
1.  How is it with your soul?

2.  What are your struggles and successes?

3.  How might the Spirit and Scriptures be speaking in your life?

4.  Do you have any sin that you want to confess?

5.  Are there any secrets or hidden things that you would like to share?

Confession was/is a key component of the band meeting.  James 5:16 links the power of confession to the strength of prayer.  A person that has confessed sin as an outward manifestation of an inner faith, is righteous in the Eyes of our Lord.   If we believe in God, then we certainty have faith in Him.   Genesis 15:1-6 describes how God viewed Abram, later to be known as Father Abraham, due to Abram’s belief in Him.

“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:  ’Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.’  But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can You give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’  And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’  Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’  He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’  Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness(emphasis added).

The Apostle Paul was directed by the Spirit to mention the connections between Abram/Abraham’s faith and righteousness in his letter to the church in Galatia.  So also Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:6, emphasis added).”  The true children of Father Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.

Our faith, not your actions, will determine our righteousness.  Our actions are a natural manifestation of your faith.   Hebrews 11, called the “Hall of Faith” or “Faith Hall of fame,” is a list of men and women who immense faith in God was manifested in tremendous action for the Kingdom.   These were deeply flawed people (cheaters, murders, prostitutes, etc.) but they had faith in God and that faith was the basis for their actions that helped advance God’s Kingdom in earth.  Also, their faith was the basis for their righteousness.   

I pray that you join me to step out in faith, confess our sins, and use our righteousness to draw ourselves closer to Jesus and to point others toward Him.  To God be the glory!

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of righteousness that is available to use through our faith in You.  Help us to claim the promise of James 5:16 to use our righteousness to pray for ourselves and our family, neighbors, friends, enemies, those marginalized in society, those imprisoned by physical or mental walls, pastors, our political leaders, and all in need of Your favor of provision, protection, and pardon.  Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen and amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Country Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Additionally, he’s the author of the inspiring book “Fathering A Special Needs Child.” Todd also enjoys filling the pulpit for pastors to share the Good News of our Lord and Savior.

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Gentleness is Strength

Gentleness is Strength

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

I am blessed to have so many good friends.  I enjoy talking with them and spending time with them, but I probably learn the most by watching them.   I have seen many of them go through rough patches, but through it all they remain calm.  Some people foolishly interpret their gentleness as weakness.  These men are gentlemen.  They are gentle, men, and very strong.  There is no truer form of strength than gentleness. 

A common theme throughout Scripture is the need to surround yourself with good people.  This is important because we tend to pick up habits and attitudes from those that we are with.  Just as “iron sharpens iron” so can dirt dull iron.  The Apostle Paul warns us of such “dirt” in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (emphasis added), “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”

When we are with argumentative and rude people, there is a good chance that we will take on those characteristics.  For instance, if somebody gets angry with you, you get angry back. If somebody is really miserable and you hang around that person long enough, you get miserable too.

The Bible offers a different way to respond: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).  A sign of true strength is when another person raises their voice is to lower yours.  When you do that, you’re demonstrating strength under control.

Another word for strength under control is gentleness. Gentleness defuses conflict. It de-escalates anger. A gentle person does not overreact and is not driven by their emotions. A gentle person is showing one of the precious and beautiful Fruits of the Spirit. 

The Greek word in the Bible for “gentleness” is the word prautesSome older English translations of the Bible translate prautes as “meek.” The word “meek” isn’t used much anymore because meek has become a synonym for weak. But gentleness—or prautes—is anything but weak.  

In fact, the word prautes was used to refer to a wild stallion that had been tamed. Think about that image.  A wild stallion has tremendous brute strength but can be dangerous and unpredictable.   But if you tame that stallion, it’s still just as strong, but the strength is brought under control. The strength is bottled up for the master’s use.

When you learn true gentleness, you don’t become weak. You just bring your strength under God’s control and use it for His purposes. 

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the teaching of Proverbs 15:1.  Help us to tap into the strength of your Spirit to respond to rudeness with kindness.  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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Use Advent to Guide Yourself And Your Family Toward Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love

Use Advent to Guide Yourself And Your Family Toward Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2 NIV).

I love Christmas and the Advent season.   It is a special time of year for families and the church.   The Advent season allows us to prepare our hearts for the birth of the Christ child.   I also love all the traditions that come with Christmas – decorating the tree with ornaments that have been passed down from generations, giving and receiving presents, candlelight service at church on Christmas eve, the smell of gingerbread or pecan pies baking in the oven, a fresh pine tree in the house, and the excitement of Christmas day. 

One of the traditions of Christmas that we typically gloss over is the advent wreath.  Each week we light a new candle, and the symbolism of each is important to help understand Christmas and the Advent season.  The Catholic church adopted this tradition during the Middle Ages as a way to prepare the hearts and minds for Christmas. The word advent itself comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “arrival.” We prepare for the arrival of Christ. The wreath itself represents eternity and everlasting life, a circle that never ends (John 3:16).

The week one candle is purple and is known as The Prophet’s Candle and symbolizes hope.  The week two candle is purple and is known as The Bethlehem Candle and symbolizes peace.  The week three candle is pink or rose-colored and is known as The Shepherd’s Candle and represents joy.  The week four candle is purple and is known as The Angle’s Candle and represents love.  The week five candle is white and is known as “Christ’s Candle” and represents the Advent Child, Jesus.

I have visited with men all over this world and found very few to have an abundance of the four characteristics of Advent.  Those that typically have these attributes in abundance are those that society would consider “poor,” but Jesus would likely refer to them as “the least of my brothers and sisters” (Matthew 25:40).

How can people living in poverty have the four components of Advent with no pension, no HMO or PPO health care, no private school for their children, no bass boat, no four-wheel drive truck, no chance of ever visiting Bass Pro or Cabela’s, no XM radio, no season tickets for the local sports team, no Polo cologne, and no ostrich boots or big belt buckles?  As a younger man, I would not have a clue how to begin to answer this question.  Now, as an older man I have the benefit of traveling the world, talking to men, and most importantly talking and listening to God through His Word.  I still do not claim to have any answers for anybody or any topic, but I do know the One that does ,,,,,, and so do “The least of my brothers and sisters.”

They have hope because they live the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (emphasis added).”

They have peace because they know that they abide in God and He in them (John 15:4, emphasis added). 

They have joy because they understand Psalm 16:11. “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right Hand are pleasures forevermore (emphasis added).”

Last but not least, they have love because they know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and believe that God is love (1 John 4:8, emphasis added). 

All of these things are possible because they have the fifth candle in their heart, Jesus.  Jesus said in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible for man is possible with God.”

It is really as simple as that.  Hope, peace, joy, and love will not be found in any material possession.  They are nice, make us temporarily happy, and might impress our neighbors but do little to advance our pursuit of Christ.  The four attributes of Advent, and even more, will be given to us but only by surrendering all to Jesus and acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior.  If you are interested in the “more” part, please read Galatians 5:22-23 and imagine how you, your family, your church, and your community could be transformed by a life lived blessed by the Fruits of the Spirit.  Talk to your pastor, pray to God, find a small group of like-minded men, look for resources from groups/authors such as Promise Keepers, Man In The Mirror, Patrick Morley, Max Lucado, Gary Chapman, etc. and search for a copy of the book Lead Like Jesus.

Many readers may recall how Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen but yet they left their nets behind when called to follow Jesus.  Similarly, in Luke 18 Jesus was asked by a rich ruler what he must do to inherit eternal life.  He had already honored the commandments his entire life.  Jesus said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  Scripture tells us that the man went away sad because he was wealthy.  Afterwards, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  This connection between earthly wealth and heavenly reward is also addressed in Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24.  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24).  “The least of my brothers and sisters” do not have to make the decision between serving God and money, but each of us, regardless of wealth, must answer the same question that Jesus posed to His disciples in Luke 9:20, “Who do you say I am?”  Our answer to this question has eternal implications.

I do not think that Jesus is calling us today to sell everything we have to follow Him, nor do I think He would disapprove of our material possessions.  However, I do feel that Jesus wants us to worship Him first, not our material possessions.  One of the ways we worship Him is in how we treat “The least of my brothers and sisters.”

For Christmas this year, I want to receive hope, peace, love, and joy for the new year.  I do not want to receive it transactionally as the world gives, but supernaturally as our Lord gives.  I want a hope, peace, love, and joy that transcends all understanding, and I want that for you too.  I want more of Jesus in me and less of me in me.  If you seek the same for yourself, I invite you to join me in the prayer below.

Prayer:  Merciful God, We confess that we have failed to an obedient church.  We have failed to follow your commands and to hear the call of the least of our brothers and sisters.  We have stored up our treasure on earth with little to no regard for our treasure in heaven.  We have lost our hope, peace, love, and joy because we have strayed from You.  Forgive us of our sins and restore in us a new heart in this season of Advent that yearns to only be satisfied by words and actions that bring glory and 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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Use Conflict To Build Respect

Use Conflict To Build Respect

“A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1 CEV).

  

We all have a desire to be respected by others.  There are two schools of thought on respect.  Some say that in any relationship, including parent-child or employer-employee, you have to give respect to get respect.  These people feel that are entitled to withhold respect from their parents or boss until the other person first shows them a sufficient amount of respect.  This group will point to Romans 13:7. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”  This verse is not teaching us to withhold respect to others but rather is commanding us to give respect to those that are in governmental authority.  The reason is found in Romans 13:1.  “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Others say that respect is absolutely required in certain situations.  For example, as a father you love your child.  They hopefully will love you also, but they certainly must respect you.  I have had some young people tell me that they cannot respect their father because he is not a respectable person.  My thought is that children do not have to love their father, although that would be ideal, but they must always respect both parents not because of their poor behavior but because they are your parents.  Period.   You probably have encountered some authority people in your life (e.g., political leaders, law enforcement, boss) that you do not like but you hopefully realized that you must respect their authority.

Malachi 1:6 reads, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.”  There are numerous Bible verses that command a child to honor their father and mother and there is a promise of a long life for doing so (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).  The command to honor the parents is never predicated on if the parents are good, fun, honorable, respectable, etc., but rather is because the parents are the parents.  I think we should show respect to our elders, parents, those in authority, and bosses regardless of if we feel they “deserve” our respect. 

We all seek respect and desire a good reputation.  Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold.”  Sadly, you will likely encounter people that are envious of your good reputation and will act out of jealousy to try to harm your reputation.  Those that know your true character will realize that this attack says little about your character but rather speaks volumes about the character of the other person.

In most secular relationships, respect must be earned.  Any type of conflict presents an opportunity for us to gain or lose respect.  People tend to “tune in” when they realize that you are in some sort of conflict.  They will watch you carefully to see how you handle the conflict, and then you will gain or lose respect in their eyes.

The book of Nehemiah is a great example of someone who earned the respect of others by the way he handled conflict. Nehemiah was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes.  He responded to God’s call and left this position to lead the effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls in an astonishing 52-day period.  He had to address a difficult situation in which wealthy Jews were profiteering off the plight of their working countrymen.  Nehemiah addressed the profiteering issue in such a way to build respect.  Below are a few key actions that he took that are beneficial for us today.

Nehemiah paused to think before he spoke

He listened to the complaints and charges the Israelites had against those who exploited them during a famine. Before he responded, he “pondered them in [his] mind” (Nehemiah 5:7).  He thought before he spoke.  How many times today do we all do the opposite?  We all need to be

“quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).

Nehemiah privately resolved the conflict

When Nehemiah realized the injustice that was happening, he did not start a slander campaign or publicly attack the offenders or start a whisper campaign to “plant seeds of doubt”.  He first tried to build a bridge with the offenders who were taking advantage of the poor to increase their own net worth.  He “called together a large meeting to deal with them” (Nehemiah 5:7).  He addressed them face to face.  That builds respect.

This is also the way Jesus commanded His followers to handle conflict.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”  Going public should be the last resort.   Many of the most successful coaches in sports today will publicly praise their athletes and privately correct them.  That shows character and builds respect.

Nehemiah appealed to their sense of honor

Nehemiah said to the rich Jews, “What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God . . . ? . . . but now let us stop this business of charging interest. You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes” (Nehemiah 5:9-11).  They obeyed him because he had their respect and appealed to their sense of honor.   

A good leader brings out the best in people and is therefore respected.  A poor leader will lead by fear or prejudice but will never gain respect.  People can sense your true goals and “If your goals are good, you will be respected” (Proverbs 11:27).

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the story of Nehemiah.  Help us to use his example to gain respect and use our influence to do good and honor 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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Attention Men: Insecurity and Jealousy Lead to Problems

Attention Men: Insecurity and Jealousy Lead to Problems!

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had left Saul.  So Saul made David go away from him, and had him lead a thousand men. And David went out to the people.   David did well in all that he did, because the Lord was with him.  When Saul saw how well he did, he was afraid of him.   But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them (1 Samuel 18:12-16).

Insecurity and jealously has been around since the beginning of time and is well documented in the story of Cain killing Abel in Genesis 4 and also Joseph’s brothers selling him in Genesis 37.  Another example comes later in the Bible in 1 Samuel and involves Saul and David.

Saul was the first king of Israel (c. 1021–1000 BC) and was chosen king both by the judge Samuel and by public acclamation.  His primary purpose was to defend Israel against its many enemies, especially the Philistines.  David was a solider under Saul and initially become a favorite of Saul.  However, under the paranoia that David was seeking to usurp the throne, Saul attempted to kill David, forcing the latter to go into hiding for several years. 

Saul becomes jealous of David because David slayed “the Philistine,” that is Goliath and the women praise David with the words, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).  Saul’s decline is marked by the frequent visitation of an “evil spirit from God.”  In his depression, he twice throws his spear at David (1 Samuel 18:10-11), and even makes David a field officer in the hopes of killing him. Nevertheless, all Saul’s plans crash to the ground as David’s success mounts: “for the LORD was with him.”

Insecurity always leads to jealousy which ruins relationships and hinders leaderships.  An insecure person views the world through an insecure lens, which informs every decision they make.

Saul was a classic insecure leader.  He was infuriated that the women praised David received more attention than him after David killed Goliath.  Instead of being happy that David was successful in battle, Saul chose to spend of the rest of his years tracking down (in David’s words) “a flea.”  His jealousy clouded his judgement, hurt his relationships, and separated him from God.   I am sure that Saul thought he was doing the right thing.  Perhaps he was living out Proverbs 14:12. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”  This story from Saul and David is not intended to be an interesting history story.  This is Holy Scripture and as such it is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (emphasis added).  So, what is God teaching us with this story?

I think the lesson here is that envy is indeed a deadly sin. Interestingly, David later wrote in Psalms 37:8, “refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (emphasis added). 

 

If you are insecure as a person, you how two options.  Conquer it, or it will conquer you.

Below are some ideas that I ask you to prayerfully consider if you are an insecure person.

Identify A Father

Saul did not have a spiritual father.  Samuel, a priest and Israel’s last judge and first prophet, served in that capacity for a while, but Saul’s actions eventually destroyed that relationship.  We all need a spiritual father to affirm us and correct us.  In the absence of a father, men tend to look to themselves for self-affirmation.  As a boy and young man, when I had a great accomplishment, I wanted to first tell my father to hear him say, “Good job!”  Of course, I wanted to tell my mother too!  I still seek that affirmation, and correction, from my mother and my elder Christian brothers.  If the spiritual father is absent in the life of a man, he will enter an endless loop of trying to prove himself to himself. The result is failure and insecurity. 

Support Others

A jealous and insure person is constantly monitoring the accomplishments of others.  If a “competitor” is mentioned in conversation, they will dismiss and downplay their achievement.  A true leader empowers, encourages, and supports others.  A great leader will go out of their way to publicly praise others but privately corrects them.

You may recall that Jesus told us that we would do even greater things than Him.  Would an insecure person have made such a statement?

 Where Do You Store Your Treasure?

An insecure person is always trying to outdo everybody else for money, status, and recognition.  The root cause is valuing the opinion of man more than the rewards of God.  This life is only temporary, but upon our death, we will live forever.   Our reward comes in heaven.  Your income and status will mean nothing in heaven.  If we only sought to enrich ourselves on earth, I think Jesus will say, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” (Matthew 25:45).

Jesus values our heart more than our money.  The Word teaches us, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).”  The next verse gives the reason for this instruction.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  The approval of man is fickle, but the approval of God has eternal implications. 

The bottom line is you CAN and MUST conquer insecurity or it WILL conquer you.  David was an imperfect man, like all of us, but Scripture tells us twice that he was a man “after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). The right next step is to surround yourself with men like David, not Saul and seek affirmation from God, store up your treasure in heaven, and publicly praise others every chance you get.

Prayer:  Dear God, Forgive us for the times our insecurity leads to acts of jealousness.  Give us a new heart and a new spirit that seeks to honor and glorify You in all that we say and do.  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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Do You Know A Proverbs 31 Woman? I Do!

Do You Know A Proverbs 31 Woman? I Do!

When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the LORD, and the LORD will pay you back” (Proverbs 19:17 GNT).

 

Scripture is full of stories of women that have played essential roles in advancing the work of our Lord.  These prominent women include the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the judge, Huldah the prophetess, Rahab, Esther, and many more.  Many of these women are recognized in the Faith Hall of Fame found in Hebrews 11. 

Proverbs 31 describes the many virtues of Godly woman.  The Proverbs 31 woman can be commended for all the wonderful things she does, what is most important is that she loves the Lord.  She lives her entire life to honor and serve Him. This and this alone is what makes her a virtuous woman.

I recently enjoyed coffee with my good friend Mark.  As we discussed how God has blessed us, I told him that he was particularly blessed because his wife is a Proverbs 31 woman.  Her love for the Lord is evident in all that she says and does.  If you spend five minutes with her, she will tell you what God has done for her today.  As I speak with her, my mind is often drawn to Luke 6:45 “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  Her heart is full of a love for God.  She lives a Spirit-led life, and the Fruits are manifested in her love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

My Sunday school class has been watching a series of videos entitled Pearls by Kristi McLelland.  In a recent episode, Rev. McLelland emphasized the need to “zachar” as a means of moving forward.  The word “zachar” is a Hebrew word that means to remember.   The Jewish people would often take time to look back and remember God’s faithful presence in their lives and that would help them to move forward through difficult times in the present.  The Psalmist was remembering God’s past faithfulness when he wrote, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore, I will remember You (Psalm 42:6).

As I speak with my friend’s wife, I often hear the zachar in her words.  If a storm is coming, she will talk about how God rebuilt her house after the flood of 2016.  If her car needs a major engine work, she will mention that the car itself was a gift from one of God’s angels.  None of her present problems are impossible because she remembers her past victories, which she quickly and wisely attributes to God.

Her life is dedicated to loving God and her neighbor (e.g., everybody).  She is not rich by secular standards, but she is rich beyond measure because of her continual efforts to store up her treasure in heaven.  In fact, Scripture says that a Proverbs 31 wife of noble character is “worth far more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).

There are few things in this fallen world of which I have confidence.  However, I am confident that when this kind lady is Healed and meets the Father, she will pass on the right Hand of God with the other sheep.  How do I know this?  Because she is actively serving the least, the lost, and the hurt.  God commands us in Matthew 25:34-36 to show compassion, kindness, and hospitality to all, particularly those on the fringes of society.  The Word says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’” (Matthew 25:34-36).  This is her calling in life.  It is real and powerful.

We all know that there is a gap between asking God for something and receiving it.  This is the inevitable period of waiting.  During this period, I have seen this Proverbs 31 woman living out Proverbs 3:5, which teaches, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  Initially I was not sure how this woman was so successful in her prayers.  Then I finally realized that she is also living out the instruction of the Psalmist.  “Delight yourself in the ways of the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).”  Her prayers are answered because she wants the same thing for her life and her family that God wants for her and her family. 

Do you know a Proverbs 31 woman?  I am blessed that I do.  Her name is Vickie Lubbock, and there is no stronger solider in God’s army than this Proverbs 31 woman. 

I can’t think of a better conclusion than the last three verses from Proverbs 31.

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.   Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:29-31)

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for all the Proverbs 31 women of the past, present, and future.  Their life is a powerful witness to your enduring love and grace.  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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You Have A Husband Now

You Have A Husband Now

… “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5 NIV).

 

Several years ago, I was talking with a female friend, let’s call her Sally, about marriage.  Sally told me an interesting story about her first marriage.  Sally got married many years ago to her first husband.  Her father, let’s call him Dick, did not like her husband because he was a “loser.”  Sally was very close to Dick, and he was always her first phone call when she needed advice on anything. 

A few weeks after she got married, Sally called her father for advice.  Sally told me what sort of advice she was seeking from her father, but I forget the details.  What is more important, to me, is the response she got from her father.  Dick calmly and politely responded to her question, “Have you asked your husband about this?”  She indicated to her father that she had not asked her husband about the situation.  The father said, “Honey, you have a husband now so go ask him.” 

Sally’s father was not a deeply religious man.  He had been the main man in his daughter’s life for her entire life.  Remember, he did not like her new husband.  However, he wanted what is best for his daughter so he did everything he could do to support her and her marriage.  Sally’s father had always loved her and would continue to love her.  I think it was because of his love for Sally that he realized the best way he could support his daughter’s marriage was to let her know that “she has a husband now.”

Sally’s father had many reasons, some valid and some invalid, to not like her new husband.  He had advised her before the wedding to not get married.  However, he knew that a marriage bond is sacred so after the wedding he kept his thoughts regarding his son in law to himself and did his best to be kind and pleasant to his daughter’s new husband.  Sally’s father wanted to give unsolicited advice to Sally and her husband regarding how things should be done in their house.

Again, Sally’s father was not a close follower of Jesus.  However, he knew that he did not want another man to undermine his authority in his house, so he knew he had to respect the authority of his new son in law.  Perhaps he had attended Sunday school as a young boy and remembered the Gospel lesson of a house divided cannot stand. 

Perhaps Sally told me this story because she knew I had a young daughter, and she knew that I love my daughter with all my heart.  I wonder if Sally was giving me a warning to prepare myself to take a step back if and when my daughter gets married.  I want my daughter to have a husband.  I know that any husband that she finds will be a sinner, and my initial reaction will to be find fault in him and try to maintain “control.”  So, I have decided to control what I can control, what I should control.  I will control my words.  Also, I will control my prayers and begin praying now that God will send a husband for my daughter that will love, provide, protect, and lead her spiritually in far better ways that I ever could or did. 

As men, many of have jobs in which we have some sort of control over people, budgets, or projects.  At home, many men have control over their young children, and this may continue later in life for unmarried daughters.  Men don’t like to be told what to do, but some fathers have no problem telling their married daughter and son in laws what to do because of a deep-rooted desire to maintain control of their daughter. 

I completely understand this desire for control.  I have a beautiful, intelligent, and kind daughter and will always view my daughter as a sweet and innocent child, and I would love to “control” her in an attempt to protect her.  But, as much as I want to have control over her life, I realize that is futile because that is not in her best interest or mine.  I want to be available to give advice, when asked and with respect to any future husband, but I want to raise my daughter in such a way that she will be able to make wise decisions without me because someday I won’t be here.    

Matthew 19:5 teaches that “….a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  The same is true for a woman.  She will also leave her father and mother and become one flesh with her husband.  There is a leaving and cleaving that occurs during marriage.  As we leave our parents, we still love them and regularly talk and visit with them, but they no longer have access to the inner workings of our lives, marriage, or our new family regardless if they demand access or feel entitled to private information.  The marriage consists of three – husband, wife, and God. 

It is understandable for a daughter to want to cling to her father after marriage.  The love for any child for a parent is strong and should be respected.  However, it is not respectful for a father to allow his daughter to cling to him once she is married or to continue to demand control over his daughter once she is married.  Fathers can support their daughter and her marriage by keeping negative opinions and unsolicited advice to themselves.  I hope I can do this if and when my daughter gets married.  I know that the time to speak my peace is before the wedding, not after.

Ladies, remember, once you are married, you have a husband now.  Fathers, remember, once your daughter is married, she has a husband now. 

Prayer:  Thank you for the Holy Covenant of marriage.  Help us as husbands to love our wives as you so loved your church.  Help us as fathers to best support our daughters by recognizing the sacredness of their marriage.  Help us as brides to remember that once we are married, we have a husband now.  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 Are You Asking “Why?”

Why Are You Asking “Why?”

“I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I – and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me . . . I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job 42:2-3, 6 NLT).

 

I suspect the most common question that people ask God begins with “why.”  Why was my house destroyed in the fire?  Why am I so unhappy?  Why don’t I have more money?  We will never fully understand the ways of God, but we take comfort in knowing that God is good.  This is the essence of the mystery of faith.  It is important to understand that faith is not hoping for something or having a strong feeling about a future event or situation.  Faith is based on assurance and conviction as described in Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

We do not understand God because we are not God.  For us to try to understand God is as futile as it would be for the birds in my backyard to understand calculus.  God addresses the fundamental different between Himself and us in Isaiah 55:8-9.  “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

We all struggle with our faith in the midst of a storm.  Questions that begin with “why” are a sign of fear rather than faith and trust. 

In the first 37 chapters of the book of Job, we read time and again of Job asking God questions that begin with “why.”  “Why is this happening to me? Why are you allowing this? Why so much pain? Why so much discomfort? Why haven’t you answered my prayers?”   Does this sound familiar?

In chapter 38, Job stops asking “why.” God begins to ask some very difficult question to Job.

In the next two chapters, God asks questions to Job that only God could answer. He asks things like, “Where were you when I made the universe? Can you explain the law of gravity?”

After two chapters, Job realizes that he is just a man, and his knowledge is limited. It appears that Job has had an epiphany and his response is in accordance with Isaiah 55:8-9.

Job stops questioning—and starts trusting. He replies to the Lord, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I – and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me . . . I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job 42:2-3, 6).

The strength of our faith is revealed when we don’t understand what is happening.  Do we choose fear or faith when life doesn’t make sense?

Of course, we all know we should choose faith, but it is not quite that simple in practice.  We don’t understand the situation, and we certainly don’t understand God’s thoughts, but we can remind ourselves of the things we do know about God to help us through the storm.  As we return back to Scripture, we can learn from Job.

Even while doubting, Job affirmed what he knew to be true about God: God is loving (Job 10:12), God is all powerful (Job 36:22), God is in control (Job 34:13), God had a plan for his life (Job 23:14), and God would protect him (Job 5:11).

You may be experiencing a major problem right now and feel that nobody understands you or your problem, and you may be exactly right!  However, you need to realize that the God of heaven and earth understands you and your problem better than you do!  If He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7), don’t you think He also is passionately and intimately aware of every detail of your life?  As His children, we have the Holy Trinity on our side.  Jesus Christ is interceding for us to the Father (Romans 8:34).  The Holy Spirit is offering intercessory prayer to God through our wordless groans (Romans 8:27).  And God is leading the way for us.  “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

You may not understand what you’re going through, but you can still say this to God: “I don’t like this, and I don’t understand this, but I know you’re good. I know you’re loving. I know you’re powerful. I know you know the details of my life. I know you’re in control. I know you have a plan. I know you will protect me.”

We mature as Christians when we stop asking “why” and start trusting God—no matter what.  There is freedom and peace that comes from trusting God all the time.  We are each free to chose faith or fear.  Choose wisely.

Prayer:  Dear God, You have delivered us from slavery and captivity and made a Holy covenant with us as your children.  Your love, wisdom, grace, and providence is impossible for us to understand.  Forgive us for our doubt and help us to remember what we know about you.  Use these periods of adversity as opportunities to grow our faith and draw us closer in ministry to you and each other until you come again in final victory.  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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Leaving A Truly Lasting Legacy

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).

 

I think most of us are interested in leaving behind a “legacy.”  I see this “legacy” term used in many applications.  Non-profit religious and secular organizations often court donors to donate money to establish a “legacy.”  This concept of having something, particularly something intrinsically good, that lives on after we are forever healed is appealing to most men. 

Your legacy is not contingent on the amount of money that you donate to any organization, including your church.  Yes, we are to do all the good that we can but with the knowledge that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

If you have been blessed as a father, then you been given the greatest opportunity to leave a legacy by living out Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  A child that loves God will become an adult that loves God and will rear children that love God.  Your Christian legacy continues through your heirs for eternity. 

Many fathers do not place God first, love their wife as Christ loved His church, or make any effort to seek His face.  Their legacy is one of sin.  Scripture is very clear that the sin and iniquity of fathers that do not follow God will be passed on to the children for three and four generations (Exodus 20:5, 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).

The phrase, “the sins of the father” reminds us that God’s law has been established with blessings, as well as judgment.  We cannot live in violation of God’s commandments and expect those closest to us to experience no effect from our sin.  We see this truth manifested in the inheritance of alcoholism, sexual prevision, abuse, etc.  This reality should stir us to obedience to God’s word.  In the Prayer of Confession and Pardon in the United Methodist Church, we ask our Lord to, “free us for joyful obedience.”  This concept of obedience is essential to those seeking a “Closer Walk With Thee.”  Ephesians 6:1 reads, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  We are all children of the Father, and our obedience to our earthly parents is one way we honor and obey our Father in heaven. 

We can all agree that proper training of children is essential for their future development.  The disagreement occurs when we discuss what is proper training.  I would never proport myself to have all of the answers on raising children.  I have raised two children and am very proud of them both but acknowledge that I made some poor choices as a father.

Scripture teaches us that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38).  The Father has modelled for us in His love for us as to how we are to love our children.  It is imperative to understand that discipline is not an action we take instead of love but rather is love in action.  Proverbs 13:24 reads, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).  Wisdom is a result of discipline, and an undisciplined child will not make wise decisions.  This connection between discipline and wisdom is evident in Proverbs 29:15. “A rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

The brain of a child is not fully developed.  Their understanding of the world is limited, and their focus is typically immature and inward.  Parents do their children a disservice by treating them as adults.  Children are children and should not be robbed of their childhood by adults that want children to help them make important adult decisions, engage in adult conversations, etc.

All parents want to ensure that their children are happy.  The easiest way to attempt this is to give the child what they want.  So, many parents consistently give their children what they want (candy, toys, expensive clothes, etc.) and withhold items and activities that they don’t want (meeting new friends, cleaning their room, eating a healthy diet, etc.). 

Some parents also withhold one big item – discipline.  As a result, they fail to heed the warning of Proverbs 22:15. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”  Discipline is so important because it puts us on the road to making good decisions.  One really good decision is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Proverbs 23:13-14 reads,  “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.  Punish them with the rod and save them from death.”

Discipline is the key to yielding good fruit in your children and leaving a true legacy.  As fathers, we must realize that most lessons are caught rather than taught.  So, our actions are important because our children are constantly watching us.  We exasperate them by using arbitrary discipline.  We confuse them when our actions conflict with our words.  We demoralize them when we do not recognize and affirm their achievements. 

Yes, discipline is important but so is grace.  Children of all ages will make mistakes.  Do you recall how the father welcomed back the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32?  As fathers, we show God to our children when we show grace.  My mind is drawn to Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner of silver.”  I think God is using a mixture of discipline and grace to work out our sanctification.  I cannot think of a better method to help our children to do likewise. 

The right next step here is for all of us to consider what are we showing to our children by our words and actions.  Are we setting a good example?  Are we serious about raising Christian children?  Do we want our sins passed on for three or four generations?  In short, where do we want to store up our treasure?  I pray that all of us can find our response within the God-breathed words of Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of children.  Thank you for modelling for us how to be a father.  Grant us wisdom and discernment on when and how to offer discipline and grace.  Help us to leave behind a legacy of children that 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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Do You Control Your Feelings Or Do They Control You?

“From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires” (1 Peter 4:2 (GNT).

 

Our feelings are a gift from God and can be used for His glory or ours.  It is fine to have and express feelings.  The problem occurs when our feelings begin to control our life rather than God’s will.

Our feelings of frustration, anger, etc. are often a result of not obtaining something we desire.  There is a recurring theme throughout Scripture of the inherent battle in man between the desires of the flesh and the Spirit.   The flesh may want a new house or a new boat.   There is nothing inherently wrong with these things and if the Spirit wants you to have these things, you will. 

One of my favorite promises from Scripture is found in Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  As we begin to move closer to Christ, we also begin to desire the same things that He desires.   It is important to remember that God is not Santa Claus.  God will give you everything that you need (2 Thessalonians 1:2), but he will not give you everything that you want.  This is particularly true if you are not following the first part of Psalm 37:4.  God wants us to delight ourselves in His ways, not our ways.  If we are truly delighting ourselves in God, then the evidence (fruit) will be manifested in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Just as blood in the water can attract shark, so can anger in your heart attract the enemy.  Ephesians 4:26-27 warns that anger opens the door to the enemy.  “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Jesus certainly was angry at times, but He never did allow himself to sin.

Our minds are a battlefield because our thoughts can originate from God or the enemy.  How can we tell who is the author of each thought?  When we are angry, or feeling any range of emotion, we can “take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) by asking ourselves a few questions.

“What is really going on here?”  A strong feeling of anger may be because there is residual resentment from some unresolved issue.  If you had a bad day at work, then that frustration can be transferred to your spouse.  Maybe you are not happy with how an issue has been handled at home, so this anger is carried over to other interactions with your spouse.  Maybe a parent, teacher, or friend said something years ago that that struck a nerve and when someone today says something similar, your overreaction is really a demand that they pay for that past offense.

“Is it true?”  Is what you’re feeling at that moment true?   Anger and fear can often cloud our judgment.  The enemy will introduce angry thoughts into your mind to cause you to feel alone, marginalized, misunderstood, or unappreciated.  As you separate yourself from others and from God, you are more vulnerable to further negative emotions.  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah gets so discouraged that he complains, “God, I’m the only one in the entire nation of Israel left serving you.”  This was false, but it was his truth.  God’s truth regarding our identity is found in Ephesians 1.  Please, go read it. 

“Is this feeling helping me or hurting me?”  Another way to ask this question is – will you get what you want by continuing to feel this way?  For example, if you want a new car and don’t have a new car, it is self-defeating to continue to feel angry month after month.   Your anger will not expedite the delivery of a new car or motivate somebody to buy you a new car, but it will make it much more likely for you to sin (Ephesians 4:26-27).

It is normal and healthy to feel angry when you are not happy with a decision.  It is also normal and healthy to “find your voice” and express your anger to your spouse.  However, at some point you are denying reality if you feel that the key to obtain what you want is to continue to express your anger.  If you hang on to anger, you allow yourself to miss the blessings of the present and future.  Now, that is something to be angry about!  An attitude of gratitude is much more beneficial than an attitude of anger.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the gift of emotions.  Forgive us for our emotions that dishonor you.  Give us the wisdom to seek out the origin of our anger and the courage to boldly lay it down at the foot of your cross.  Amen.