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

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.

Tear A Hole In The Roof!

todd shupe

Tear A Hole In The Roof!

todd shupe

One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.  Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.   When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:17-20 NIV).

 

As I write this the damage from Hurricane Ida is still fresh all throughout south Louisiana.  The winds were some of the strongest ever and damaged the roofs of many houses.  The winds forced scores of trees to fall and some punched holes in the roofs of some houses. Nobody wants a hole in their roof but if you were paralyzed during the time of Jesus you would be grateful if your friends made a hole in the roof of a house to lower you into the presence of our Lord. 

In Luke 5 we read a fascinating story in which a group of men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed.   At first glance this is “just” another story in which Jesus performs a miracle.  You may recall in Matthew 20:16 that Mary addressed Jesus as Rabonni, which means teacher in Hebew.  As a teacher, perhaps Jesus likely recognized the opportunity as a “teachable moment.”  Yes, this was a moment for our Lord to again demonstrate His divinity.  In addition, the four friends in the story were also teaching by modeling godly behavior.   Below are a few characteristics of these friends that are invaluable to us today as we seek to minster to a fallen world.

Faith.  Scripture does not tell us about the strength of the faith of the paralytic man. However, Scripture does teach us that the man was healed because Jesus saw the faith of his friends.  So, we can assume that the friends at a minimum had the faith of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). Jesus repeatedly teaches the importance of faith throughout the Gospels. All ministry must be deeply rooted in faith in Jesus.

Friendship.  The paralytic man wisely chose to be friends with four men that were there for him when he most needed their friendship.  The friends were ministering to the paralytic man    The friends were showing true friendship based on Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times,, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  A very important spiritual gift is that of presence. Zoom and FaceTime are wonderful but, there is no substitute for being physically present with a friend in a time of adversity.

Persistence.   It is so easy to give up when things get tough.  The men in Luke 5 encountered a huge crowd around Jesus and could have easily given up and their friend would not have been healed.  However, they persisted to find a way to help their friend. Scripture repeatedly addresses the benefits of persistence with the parable of “A Friend Comes at Midnight” (Luke 11:5-8) and the lesson of “Keep Asking, Seeking, and Knocking” (Luke 11:9-13).  It is easy to get discouraged as we try to reach family, friends, and acquaintances with the Gospel. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  We must be persistent in our ministry to others because the stakes are huge and eternal.

Innovation.  If the friends had persisted in what they were doing, then their friend would not have been healed.  The crowd was too large, and they could not get through. God gave us brains so we can think.  It’s innovative to tear a hole in a roof and lower your friend down to be with Jesus!   Don’t you think the friends made a mess when they made the hole in the roof? Ministry can sometimes be messy, but if we speak the truth in love then we have a powerful witness.

Cooperation.  These men had to cooperate to do this job. One many simply could not do this job alone.  There is strength in numbers. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The men not only had strength in their own numbers but stepped out in faith to tap into the immeasurable strength of Jesus for non-selfish reasons.  This small group of men brought another man to Jesus. People are more likely to respond to the Gospel in the context of a supportive, small group.

Sacrifice.  In your ministry you will be subjected to jealousy, hatred, and slander.   Jesus said, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). The friends not only sacrificed their time, but they also sacrificed the roof of a stranger! Scripture does not tell us who repaired the roof, but I suspect the friends sacrificed their time and resources to do this. Whether it’s time, money, or something else, there is always a cost to bringing someone to Christ.  Luke 16:9 teaches, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” We must be willing to make sacrifices if we are truly going to fulfill the Great Commission.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for speaking to us through Holy Scripture. Help us to not only understand but to also apply the lessons of Scripture to our daily lives. In particular, help us to use the lessons of Luke and all of Scripture as we minister to the world in Your name.  Amen. 

Meet the Author

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

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Why Is There So Much Anger Out There?

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Why Is There So Much Anger Out There?

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A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18 NIV).

Have you noticed a change in people in recent years?  I sure have.  I think it has been accelerated by COVID-19 and sadly will probably get worse before it gets better.   We have become meaner, more aggressive, more entitled, less patient, less appreciative, less respectful, and less forgiving.   How can this be in a country in which approximately ¾ of the adult population identifies as Christian?   Aren’t Christians called to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” as instructed in Micah 6:8?  Similarly, Romans 12:17-18 gives further instruction to Christians on how to interact with others.  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Each day Christians are revealing the nature of their heart and the strength of their witness by the words of their mouth.  Jesus drew this connection when He said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).  Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way.  “The tongue has the power of life and death.”  Am I the only Christian that sometimes says things that I later regret?

Our words and actions (or inactions) are the outward manifestation of our relationship with God.  The Bible uses the term “fruit” to represent this outward appearance of our inner spirit.  We know others by their fruits just as they know us by ours (Matthew 7:15-20). 

As I think of fruits in this context, my mind is drawn to the parable of the cursing of the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22.  Cursing the fig tree was Jesus’s way of saying that the whole nation had become spiritually barren before the Lord just as the tree was barren of fruit. The people had knowledge of religion, but it was not a part of their heart.  No good fruit.

I think many Christians today have a pretty good idea about the divinity of Jesus and a fair appreciation for His sacrifice and ministry.  However, many Christians are not yielding good fruit as evidenced by the negative attributes listed in the first paragraph. 

Why do so many Christians show these negative attributes when Jesus came to give them joy?  What is causing all of this anger and other negative emotions?  The short answer is fear, which is manifested as anger.  I think its noteworthy that Scripture encourages us 365 times (one for each day) to not be fearful or afraid. 

As we drill deeper to see what is behind the anger, we will find a primal cry deeply rooted in a suffering that is longing to be soothed.  These negative emotions are the only means some people know to beg for attention and care.  Their anger has been birthed by paralyzing fears, unfulfilled desires, raw wounds that are fresh even though years have passed, and dreams that have been stifled. Their harsh actions. loud words, and demand for control indicate a false bravado which is being driven by a deep cry – I am afraid.  I am not heard.  I am not satisfied.  I am hurt.  I want to be affirmed. 

As Christians we know we are called to trust God but in practice we often trust ourselves.  We want to give control to God but, we want to control our life and those close to us because we, and only we, know best.  We often trust God, or a spouse, to make decisions but only if they make the decision that we want. 

The right next step here is to stop and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal negative emotions and other sins that are separating you from God.  Then, repent and turn from the sin.   As men we can model this by being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

It is important to realize that this requires daily prayer and a small accountability group.  A life lived in the Spirit is joy, but one lived in the flesh is death.  Choose life. 

Prayer:  Dear God, We know that apart from you we can do nothing.  Yet, so often we go our own way and do what is right in our own eyes.  Forgive us for our seasons of bad fruit.  Prune us to remove all that is impure and prepare new growth that is pleasing to your Eye.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 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 Did You Like Your Heart Attack?

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How Did You Like Your Heart Attack?

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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

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Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men

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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)

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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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