How Did You Like Your Heart Attack?

todd shupe

How Did You Like Your Heart Attack?

todd shupe

Remember today what you have learned about the LORD through your experiences with Him” (Deuteronomy 11:2 GNT).

 

There is certainly nothing to like or funny about a heart attack.  You know somebody is serious when they say, “I am serious as a heart attack.” 

In the book See You at the House by Bob Benson, the author details a conversation about his friend who had a heart attack.  The prognosis was grim for a while but ultimately his friend recovered. Months later Bob asked him a rather odd question. “Well, how did you like your heart attack?”  His friend responded, It scared me to death, almost.”  Bob asked, “Would you do it again?” “No!,” his friend said.  “Would you recommend it?” Bob asked.  “Definitely not,” said his friend. 

Now, the conversation begins to turn.  Bob said, “Does your life mean more to you now than it did before?”  “Well, yeah” was the response.  Bob continued, “You and your wife always had a beautiful marriage, but are you closer now more than ever?” Yes,” said his friend.  Bob probed deeper and asked, “Do you have a new compassion for people—a deeper understanding and sympathy?” “Yes, I do.”  “Do you know the Lord in richer fellowship than you’d ever realized?”  “Yes.”  And then Bob said, “So how did you like your heart attack?”

God is with us in the storms of life, including heart attacks, and often uses these situations as a learning opportunity for us.  Deuteronomy 11:2 reads, “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with Him.”  Sometimes it takes a heart attack or similar event for God to get our attention.  At this point, it is up to us to us to respond. 

Our response will ultimately increase or decrease our faith in God.  Scripture speaks to the relationship between trials and faith.  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:6-8).

We can choose to consider it all joy (James 1:2-4) because we know we have final victory over sin and death and glory and eternity await.  We can partner with God in times of trials to make us into the kinds of people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28–29). I believe that our good, compassionate God longs for all of us to be on a formational journey in Christian perfection to be more Christ-like and pain provides a unique “on-ramp” to expedite the journey.

God reveals Himself to us through various means.  Sadly, many men do not recognize God’s grace until they have their “heart attack” moment.  We can certainly experience God’s presence while in church or reading the Bible.  However, His presence transcends any sort of limits or preconceptions that we might have.  I sense His presence in babies, nature, and random acts of kindness.  The earth is God’s canvas.  The Psalmist expresses it beautifully in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  If you want to see proof of God and see evidence of His work, look out the window or better yet go for a walk.

Don’t wait for your heart attack to begin living life!

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for pursuing us even when we fail to pursue you.  Help us to see first your kingdom and your righteousness.  Amen. 

Meet the Author

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

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Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men

todd shupe

Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men

todd shupe

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15 NIV).

  

I have enjoyed reading the book, “Twelve Ordinary Men” by John MacArthur.   Each chapter focused on a different disciple and blessed me with new insight to each of these men.  I was particularly drawn to the chapter about John, the Apostle of Love.  Throughout our lives we all find ourselves on different sides of the truth and love issue.  Sometimes we want justice and sometimes we want mercy. Most of us settle on the side that best suits our purpose for the particular issue at the particular time. 

However, it is a false choice to choose between truth and love.  For a Christian that is growing in sanctification, the two go together.  According to the book, “Zeal for the truth must be balanced by love for people.  Truth without love has no decency, its brutality.  On the other hand, love without truth has no character its just hypocrisy.” 

Today many people are imbalanced in the matter of truth/love.  Love is often given higher priority over truth.  MacArthur writes, “Some are merely ignorant; others are deceived; still others simply do not care about what is true.”  The author states that what they are left with is “error, clothed in a shallow, tolerant sentimentality.”  This is not true love because there is a lack of truth.  “Therefore, even the love they speak of is a tainted love.”  Real love “does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices I the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

A key point in the book is the concept of equality of the two virtues.  “The truly godly person must cultivate both virtues in equal proportions.  If you could wish for anything in your sanctification, wish for that.  If you pursue anything in the spiritual realm, pursue a perfect balance of truth and love.  Know the truth and uphold it in love.”  To know truth and love is to know Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus reveals Himself as truth by stating, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  John clearly understood the truth and love nature of Jesus when he wrote in 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

The author points to Ephesians 4 in which the apostle Paul describes the balance of truth and love as the very pinnacle of spiritual maturity.  Ephesians 4:15 teaches, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”  Sanctification is essential to living out this Scripture.  According to MacArthur, “Manifesting both truth and love is possible only for the mature believer who has grown into the measure of the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ.” 

We know the truth when we know Christ.  His Word is the truth.  We know true love when we love as Christ loves, unconditionally.  The greatest truth is love and truth and love are inseparable.  They are intimately related in the Great Commandment which is the true Word of God (Matthew 22:37-40).

This book provides the reader with a better understanding of Jesus, His disciples, and yourself.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the twelve apostles of Jesus, and their acts to start Your church.  Please help us to continue to advance Your kingdom on earth.  Amen.

 

Meet the Author

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

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How To Be An AAA Rated Father (Part 2)

todd shupe

How To Be An AAA Rated Father (Part 2)

todd shupe

And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee” (Genesis 27:25 KJV).

Fathering is increasingly important because children are increasingly being born into either fatherless homes or homes in which the father is present but not active in the life in the child. 

Men have been appointed by God as the head of the home. I understand that many women find this troubling, and the Bible is full of stories of courageous women that have served the body of Christ. The truth is that many men have done a terrible job of leading their house in any capacity, particularly spiritually. Many men are not even physically present in the home or if so, they do not recognize Jesus as their Lord and savior and will not even attend church on Sunday.

The article, “The Daddy Factor: The Crucial Impact of Fathers on Young Children’s Development” by Claire Lerner provides some eye-opening results from new research regarding the impact of fathers on the development of children.  For example, when fathers use more words with their children during play, children have more advanced language skills a year later. This is especially important because language skills are correlated with academic success.  Also, the more time fathers spend in enriching, stimulating play with their child—such as playing pretend or sharing stories—the better the child’s math and reading scores are at 10 and 11 years old.

I previously wrote a blog titled “How To Be A AAA-Rated Father,” which focused on three attributes that are needed to be a good father – affection, affirmation, and attention. This current blog deals with the result of a fatherless child.  A fatherless child will be missing three key attributes as he or she goes trough life.  This void will be a huge obstacle for a happy and successful life. 

First, a fatherless child will be missing accountability.  The father serves as a daily life coach.   Even the best of children will lie, steal, disrespect, destroy, and cheat.  The father will unconditionally love the child and because of his love will discipline the child as needed.  The father will hold the child accountable.  Accountability is like walls in that they provide protection.  “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28).

Second, a fatherless child will be missing apprenticeship.   Historically, many jobs were learned as an apprentice.  Similarly, fathers teach valuable life skills to their children.  A father trains his children to prepare them to become self-sufficient.  Each move a father makes, good or bad, is training his children.   Most lessons are caught and not taught, which means that children are much more keenly focused on what we do rather than what we say.  Fathers establish the norms in the family.  I was blessed as a child to have a father that established norms of going to church on Sunday, family, hard work, education, fiscal responsibility, respect for authority, humility, and more.

Third, a fatherless child will be missing affirmation.  As a child, I wanted nothing more than to please my parents.  I wanted their approval and affirmation and I received it.  Can you imagine the psychological damage to a child if they never hear words of affirmation from their father?  What if instead the child hears the opposite: “Why are you so dumb?  You are a disappointment to me!”  The identify of the child becomes one of failure.  How can they face the challenges of life with strength and courage?  

The need for a child to receive the blessing of his father is illustrated in Genesis 27.  Jacob went to great lengths to receive his father’s blessing.  Be sure that each of your children receives your blessing and help them to have accountability, apprenticeship, and affirmation.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of children.  Father, help us to be more like you and to instill positive attributes into our children.  Amen. 

Meet the Author

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

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The Holy Covenant of Marriage – Part 4: Divorce

The Holy Covenant of Marriage – Part 4: Divorce

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 NIV). 

 

If marriage is a Godly uniting of a couple together, then divorce is a secular process to separate what God has united.  The separation is not done with surgical precision and results in a “tearing apart.”   The result is ugly and does not honor God.

It is well known that approximately half of all first marriages end in divorce, and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. I think this is because most marriages involve people that do not understand the Holy covenant nature of their marriage. People cannot put into practice that which they do not understand. If couples did understand the marriage covenant, then they would realize that they should not place each other as number one in their life.  Also, the children should not be number one or even number two.  In a covenant marriage, God is always welcome, always present, and both parties are always seeking His face and place Him above all else.  They place each other as second.  Finally, any children are then third.  Of course, situations will arise in which the children need to become a higher priority, but this should be the exception and not the norm or the marriage will be harmed. 

The Bible makes it very clear that the responsibility of leadership in marriage falls squarely on the husband’s shoulders. 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches,

 “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

If God has created the marriage, then the couple can claim the promise of Romans 8:31. “If God is for us, then who can be against us?”  I think we can insert the word “what” in place of “who” in Romans 8:31 for an even broader understanding of the unlimited power and providence of our God.

Sadly, approximately half of all first marriages and a higher percentage of subsequent marriages end in divorce. God clearly grieves the Heart of God.  The Word teaches in Malachi 2:16, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.”

The Bible only explicitly allows divorce for two reasons. Jesus specifically allowed divorce for infidelity. “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  Adultery is forbidden by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 13:4. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).  In such a case, however, divorce is not mandated or even encouraged.  The Christian spouse should always strive toward forgiveness and reconciliation should be extended and pursued if possible. But divorce is allowed, especially in cases where the sinning spouse persists in an adulterous relationship.

“Paul adds a second exception, in instances where an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage. This would typically be the case when one of the two partners is converted to Christ at some point after marrying and the other person refuses to continue in the marriage. “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. Yet if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:14-15).

The idea for a couple to become married should be Divinely initiated by God and affirmed by the couple before they proceed with any wedding planning.  If God did not bless the wedding at the beginning and the Holy Spirit was not welcome during the marriage, then the marriage will likely end in divorce because neither party truly understood the Holy covenant nature of the marriage. 

Prayer:  Dear God, We know that your heart grieves each time a marriage covenant ends in divorce.  Help us to live out our wedding vows and to love our wives as You love 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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The Holy Covenant of Marriage Part 3: Submission and Leadership

The Holy Covenant of Marriage Part 3: Submission and Leadership

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24 NIV). 

Perhaps no other Scripture is more misunderstood than the concept of submission in marriage.  Although there is much Scripture regarding marital roles, perhaps none is cited more than Ephesians 5.  It should be noted that the first directive for submission is for general submission to each other.  “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).  This submission is in deference to the ultimate leadership of the husband for the health and harmonious working of the marriage relationship.

One of the more highly debated verses, which occurs later in Ephesians 5. concerns the role of a Christian wife. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24).  This Scripture is troubling to many wives and needs further explanation.  Since the best method to understand Scripture is other Scripture, we see that the concept of submission from Ephesians 5:24 is supported in Colossians 3:18-19Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  This idea is further reinforced in 1 Peter 3:1. “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

These Scriptures are often misinterpreted to mean that women are viewed as second-class citizens. However, this is not true.  Scripture states that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). A good husband loves his wife unconditionally and is a servant leader just like Christ. 

The submission of wives is not like the obedience children owe parents (Ephesians 6:1), nor does this text command all women to submit to all men (only to your own husbands, not to all husbands!). Both genders are equally created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–28) and joint heirs of eternal life (Galatians 3:28–29). Both genders should be equally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14) in their Christian walk with Jesus.

The husband and wife are equal partners but charged with different areas of responsibility.  The husband is asked to love his wife and the wife is asked to respect her husband.  The final directive of Ephesians 5 details the different requirements of the couple.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33, emphasis added).”   Remember, both are equally called to submit to each other so therefore both are effectively called to love and respect the other.

Equality is an important concept to understand as we probe into marital roles. The equality of the husband and wife is similar to that of God and Jesus.  The Son told us He had equal authority as the Father.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18).

Here, He is proclaiming His divinity and equality to the Father in this Scripture.  At Calvary, Jesus, while still being equally yoked to the Father, showed His submission to the Father by stating, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39, emphasis added).  Not only did He die in submission, but He lived and ministered in submission.  “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38).  Jesus taught that prayer is a form of submission to the Father.  When Jesus gave the disciples the Lord’s prayer, He taught them to pray for God’s sovereign rule (not His rule) by speaking,  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, emphasis added).

It is important to note that the focus in these verses is on Christ because husbands do not “sanctify” their wives or “wash” them of their sins, though they are to do all in their power to promote their wives’ holiness.

The leadership of the husband is defined by Paul not as demanding his rights but rather as laying down his life for the good of his wife (Ephesians 5:25).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Jesus walked this earth as a servant leader and gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) Jesus is also the head of the church.  Men, your primary church is your family, and you serve as a priest for that family. The right next step after reading this is to joyfully and readily serve, honor, and cherish your wife. 

Sacrificial action is an integral part of the husband’s role as the head of the home. Again, Christ is a wonderful example of this. He demonstrated servant leadership by washing his disciple’s feet. In marriage, being a servant leader means ensuring that the wife’s material, emotional and spiritual needs are met. 

Let me leave you with one final thought.  Men, are you giving mercy and forgiveness to your wife as freely as God has given it to you?  If not, now is the time to start.

Prayer:  Dear God, May we focus our attention on submitting ourselves to You rather than the submission of our wives to ourselves.  Amen.

 

Meet the Author

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

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The Holy Covenant of Marriage Part 2: Marriage as a Holy Covenant

The Holy Covenant of Marriage – Part 2: Marriage as a Holy Covenant

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31 NIV).

From the very beginning, it was clear that God did not intend for man to be without a partner.  The man, Adam, was made first and then God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).  So, the Biblical roles of husband and wife were divinely created in the Garden of Eden.  Subsequent Scripture provides further guidance for marital roles and expectations (Ephesians 5:22-27, Matthew 19:4-6, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:7, Hebrews 13:4, Isaiah 62:5, 1 Corinthians 7:2–5).

One of the essential pillars of marriage is the concept of “one flesh.”  Scripture teaches us in Ephesians 5:31, “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  The concept of “one flesh” refers to a new Christ-centered life for each spouse that is Divinely, eternally, and intimately connected to each other and God.  This concept of “new life” is addressed in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here (emphasis added).”  This concept of “new life” is supernatural and is just as hard for us to understand today as it was when Nicodemus visited Jesus at night and was taught a similar lesson regarding new life (John 3:1-21). 

Your church and/or denomination may not recognize marriage as a sacrament, and we can debate if marriage is a sacrament, but there is no doubt that it is most certainly a Holy covenant between husband, wife, and God.  A marriage ceremony is beautiful because it symbolizes new life of two people that are joining their lives together in the presence of God, family, and friends.  The purpose of marriage has been long debated.  Some would argue that it is to provide the husband with “a helper” (Genesis 2:18).”  Others believe it is for both parties to share love and create a family.  I believe the purpose of marriage is for the couple to glorify God in everything they say, do, and dream, and to be living witnesses of sacrificial love, grace, mercy, and justice to everyone, particularly to each other and, if they are so blessed with children, to their children.

Near the end of a traditional marriage ceremony, we often hear the phrase, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” This phrase, drawn from the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:6, reminds us that marriage is a covenant created by God. 

‘Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate’” (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV).

Men, as the Spiritual leader of the house and in accordance with Ephesians 5:22-27 and 1 Corinthians 11:3, you are entrusted with the health and harmonious workings of the marriage. In short, if the marriage fails, you have failed.  You have been given much (authority), so you also have even greater expectations (responsibility).  “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). Full disclosure:  I was divorced in 2017 after 20 years of marriage.  I did not file for divorce, but I own the fact that I failed but am grateful for the grace and redemption that I have through the blood of the Son. 

You are also responsible for the spiritual health of your wife.  Once again, we return to Ephesians 5 for guidance.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

The phrase “washing with the Word” is important to our understanding of this Scripture because it indicates the proper role of Scripture in the marriage.  Only through the supernatural power of the Word can the wife be presented to the husband as “holy and blameless.”  Ritual bathing as a means of spiritual purification (Leviticus 14:8-9, 15:18, 15:5-6) was an important spiritual practice for Jews at the time the Apostle Paul wrote this Scripture. 

I believe that if we understand and commit to a covenant marriage, we are joining our hearts together in a supernatural way that only God can orchestrate.  If God created the marriage, then only God should end the marriage so the words “to death do us part” is only true in the physical sense because the marital bond will last for eternity, regardless if one party has been healed into the Church Triumphant.  If God has dominion over death, then death certainly does not have dominion over marriage.  If God has created the marriage, then the couple can claim the promise of Romans 8:31. “If God is for us, then who can be against us?”  I think we can insert the word “what” in place of “who” in Romans 8:31 for an even broader understanding of the unlimited power and providence of our God.

If you are married or engaged, there are a few questions you may want to think about and discuss with your partner.  Do you and your wife or fiancé have the same understanding of marriage?  Are you both praying for yourself and each other?  Do you spend time in Scripture each day?  What role does God play in your marriage?

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for providing us with a helper that is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Help us to understand that each marriage is a Holy covenant with our wife and 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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The Holy Covenant of Marriage – Part 1: Instructions For Men

The Holy Covenant of Marriage Part 1: Instructions For Men

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7 NIV).

I have been asked a few times over the years to share my thoughts about marriage.  I have prayerfully organized my thoughts into four blogs.  My target audience is men.  Hopefully any man regardless of his current marital status will find these blogs useful at best or thought provoking at worst.    If you find the blogs helpful, then that indicates that God was at work, and He deserves your thanks, not me.  

Living together as a husband and wife is so much more than residing at the same address, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same bed, having the same checking account, sharing the same insurance policies, and maintaining the same house.  None of these tasks guarantee intimacy.     An intimate relationship is guaranteed when you commit yourself to a life lived in Christ and for Christ and when you treasure, respect, and cherish your union with your wife more than any other relationship (except for your relationship with God) or any other thing (e.g., job, hobby, or possession).

A healthy marriage is contingent upon you choosing to lead by example.  You show Biblical leadership when you prioritize your wife as the most important person in your life behind God.  Listen to your wife.  You show respect by listening.  You affirm her feelings by listening.  You establish and grow trust by partnering with her to work out her fears and achieve her goals.  I think we would have fewer divorces and happier marriages if more husbands focused on the Biblical command to respect their wives rather than demanding their submission.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).

Intimacy with your wife is so vitally important to a healthy marriage.  You must be committed to maintaining this intimacy and understand that to do so you need to be intentional in helping your wife with her struggles, fears, goals, and pain and accept that some of these issues may have started before you ever met.

During the dating period we want to get to know our partner.  Getting to know your spouse is a lifelong journey and dating after marriage will help you get to know your wife on a much deeper basis than her favorite actress or restaurant.  Always remember that there is no relationship with another human that is more important than your relationship with your wife.  God first, wife second.   

Prayer:  Dear God, Your Word teaches that You sit as a refiner of siler.  Refine us, dear God, and burn away all impurities which separate us from You.  Help us to be men after your own heart.  Help us to love our wife as Christ loved His Church.  Amen.

Meet the Author

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

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The Darkness Of Spiritual Blindness

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Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11 NIV).

One of the worst things we can say to another person is to call them a liar.  The words sting because they are often perceived as an attack on the character of the accused.  Yes, the words are often hurtful, but they are always true.  Men, each one of us has at one time fallen short of honesty.   Sin entered the world through the lying words of the serpent, and it continues to be pervasive in this now fallen world.

Our natural tendency is to lie to ourselves.  We do this by believing our feelings, which are not always accurate. We believe our thoughts, but they may not be true.  When thoughts and feelings are not true, then who do you think is the author?  Scripture teaches us that our heart is not to be trusted.  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  I think we give credibility to certain thoughts and feelings due to our spiritual “blind spots,” which are attitudes or insecurities which we either cannot or will not see.

We all have spiritual blindness which is a spiritual problem.  The first step with any problem is to take it to God in prayer. I am reminded of the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus who sits by the roadside and calls out (prays) in faith to Jesus to heal him of physical blindness (Mark 10:46-52).

To better see our spiritual blind spots, we should ask for clarity from the One who knows all and sees all.  I love the prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.   See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

(Psalm 139:23-24).  This Scripture is so important because it is teaching us to invite God into our hearts to reveal to us anything that is unclean, which only serves to limit our relationship with Him.

The Psalmist wisely, beautifully, and repeatedly asks God to teach him His ways (Psalm 25:4-5, 86:11, 119:33). The Psalmist is putting into action the teaching of Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

After you’ve asked God for clarity, ask some trusted Christian friends or family for help. Proverbs 12:15 teaches, “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”  If you think you do not need help and advice from Christian friends, then that in itself is a blind spot and self-deception.   God can speak to you through your friends.  Pray for their tongues and your own ears.

Then, ask the One to change you that can truly change you.  Jesus identified himself as “truth.”  “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6) and told us, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The closer we are to Jesus, the more your life will be filled with truth and freedom. One fruit of this intimacy is we will be less vulnerable to negative thought and feelings as we walk in the light of God’s truth. God’s truth helps us to understand in our minds and believe in our hearts who we are and Whose we are.

Jesus said in John 9:39, “I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”  Those who admit their need for His grace and favor, are those who will be granted true and eternal sight.  Bartimaeus asked in faith for sight and our Lord honored that petition due to his faith.  However, Scripture warns us about our perils of our tendency to be “stiff-necked,” which means obstinate and difficult to lead.  (Exodus 33:3; Deuteronomy 9:13; Nehemiah 9:16; Acts 7:51).   Some may have great knowledge about Christ (John 5:39-40), but they are already dead and will not find the “narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13-14) because they never knew Him (Matthew 7:21-23).

If you do not know Christ, then invite Him into your heart today.  If you do know Christ but are struggling with negative thoughts and feelings, follow the three- step plan above and yoke up with other members of the Body of Christ.  He is worthy, and YOU are precious in His sight.

Prayer: “I  will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom” (Psalm 145:1-3 NIV).

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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Where Are You On The Road From Capernaum to Cana?

Where Are You On The Road From Capernaum to Cana?

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

It has often been said that two things are certain in this life – death and taxes.  I would add one more to the list – problems.   We all face problems in life that are too great for us alone to handle.  I do not  know your particular story but I do know that each reader is in one of three seasons in life:  (1) in a storm, (2) exiting a storm, or (3) preparing for the next storm. 

The Bible documents many examples of people with faith bringing their problems to Jesus.  One of my favorite stories regarding faith is minimal in length but enormous in its impact and is found in John 4:43-54.

A man identified as a royal official from Capernaum left his hometown and approached Jesus in Cana. “Come heal my son” the man asked Jesus.  The man must have had faith to leave his town and seek out Jesus.  Our Lord responded to the man and said the boy would be healed.  The man then began his trip back to Capernaum. While the man was on his way, some of his servants met him, with the news that the son was alive and well. The good news from the servants was met with a good question from the father:  “What time did he get better?” The reply was “One o’clock.” This was the very time Jesus had spoken the word.  His word was powerful, effective, and immediate. 

Scripture teaches of the power of the laying of hands on the sick (Luke 4:40, Acts 6:5-6, 8:14-19).  However, in this instance our Lord performed a double, long-distance healing. The miracle was not just in the life of the boy but in the saving faith of the entire household.

However, the boy eventually died. The life-giving miracle of Jesus was short-term, but the faith-giving miracle of Jesus was eternal and will continue serve to draw His children near to Him until He returns in final victory. The entire household believed in Jesus, and this resulted in everlasting life.   At the beginning of this post, I wrote that as Christians we can really count on two things – taxes and trouble.  Jesus has providence over life and death.  The Apostle Paul knew this when he wrote, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).  Jesus acknowledged that taxes are inevitable.  “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).  Jesus also recognized that we would all face problems, but He gave us a powerful encouragement!  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Let’s return back to our from journey Capernaum to Cana.  The father likely thought he was walking the road to Capernaum all alone. Quite the contrary.  Our Lord had supernaturally gone ahead (Exodus 13:21) into the nobleman’s residence and not only healed the son, but also won the hearts of the entire household. The father’s prayer was answered in a manner greater than he had requested or expected because he claimed the promise of John 14:13 and received favor. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

All prayers are answered.  The answer may be yes, no, or not now.  Some are answered while we walk this fallen world, but others are saved for when we are healed. 

Your prayer will receive an answer.  So, what is the lesson for us regarding the road from Capernaum to Cana?  For me, this story urges me to keep walking and believing in our God who is our “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Ever present. That’s the message of this miracle, and that’s the message of the Gospel.

This life contains many, many walks from Cana to Capernaum, journeys between prayer offered and prayer answered.  Jesus promise to the boy’s father is a promise for us also.   I have lots of people that I want to talk to when I am healed and join the Great Cloud of Witnesses.  I want to thank this man for inspiring this verse: “The man took Jesus at His word and departed” (John 4:50).  May we be so wise and blessed as to go and do likewise.  

The journey is completed one step at a time.  The race is never won until we get off the starting block.  Place one weary foot in front of the other. Jesus has spoken!  He promises provision and protection far better than anything secular of this fallen world.  If you feel you are an outcast, receive His living water.  If you are tired, take refuge in His arms.  If you have sinned, return as modeled by the prodigal son.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is revealed to us in Christ Jesus.  Your debt is cancelled.  Your sins are forgiven.  Victory is now!  The victory is in Jesus!  He is the life, the truth, and the way. 

Prayer:  Dear God:  Thank you for the encouragement we receive as you read Scripture.  Forgive our impatience as You walk with us between prayer and provision.   Help us to always have at least a mustard seed of faith even on our darkest days and may we never forget the power of that seed.  Amen

Meet the Author

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

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The Ministry Of Listening

The Ministry Of Listening

To answer before listening– that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13 NIV).

Most men like to take action to solve a problem.  We tend to jump in and begin formulating a solution before we have even heard the entire story.  Fixing a problem is great but before it is fixed, it needs to be felt.  I think God wants us to feel the pain before we fix the pain. 

Have you ever been just seconds into a conversation about a problem and say, “I know how to fix this.” But that’s not loving. It has been said that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  You show that you care by listening.  People want to feel heard. They want to feel loved. They want to feel understood.

As men we want to fix problems, and that is fine, but we need to first consider the feelings behind the problem.  Perhaps our desire to fix someone else’s problem is also due to a need to shift the focus to ourselves?  Philippians 2:3 warns, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”  This is a matter of the heart and only you and God know what is truly in your heart. 

How did Jesus respond when He encountered people with problems?  His typical response was to listen.  One of the most well-known Bible stories is when Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead.  When Jesus hears that His friend Lazarus is sick, Jesus takes three days to travel to see him.  This is noteworthy because the trip should have taken less than a day. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead, and his sisters are grieving and tell Jesus that if he had come sooner Lazarus would not have died.

Jesus’ delay might seem callous at first glance, but God is love and not callous.  He doesn’t want to simply heal Lazarus. He wants to raise him from the dead to show His divinity.  Jesus already knew the solution before Lazarus even got sick.  Jesus was not unconcerned about their pain. When He sees others around Him crying, He weeps with them.  Yes, Jesus knew the solution to the problem.  However, He stopped to share their grief to show that He cares before He implements a solution.  He was present in the moment and listened.  This is how a real man handles a problem!

You may know the solution, but you need to hold off. If you’re going to be a good friend or husband, you’ve got to listen to the feelings behind the story and enter into that person’s pain.

I find it interesting that as Jesus was arrested one of His disciples drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards from the Temple (Luke 22:47-52).  Perhaps Jesus healed the ear because He knew that the ear was essential for its owner to hear His call in the future?  Jesus said in Matthew 11:15, “He who has ears, let him hear.”  Before the gospel can be lived or told, it must be heard.  Jesus did not come to call the righteous but rather sinners to repentance.  This includes temple guards, you, me, and all of our fellow sinners. 

You have probably heard it said that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.  Did you realize that your ears are an instrument for healing?  There is healing that begins when someone starts sharing their pain with you.  So please do not disturb the healing process by rushing to implement your solution.  Listening is showing love.  Listening is modelling Christ.  Listening is ministry.  I love the motto of the Kairos prison ministry teams – listen, listen, love, love.  Amen?

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for our ears and the ability to hear our brothers and sisters as they communicate their problems to us.  Grant us wisdom and discernment to actively listen and engage in their lives.  I pray that all solutions that we formulate are done so in tandem with You, to glorify Your name, and be a testimony to Your love, grace, and mercy.  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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