June 2018, Man Up for LIFE

Man Up, Todd Shupe on the Importance of Christian Study

The Importance of christian study

by Todd Shupe

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

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

Have you ever heard the expression “Stay in the Word”? I always thought this was encouragement to read the Bible. However, after reading the Bible we begin to learn that the Word is more than just a book. It is God himself! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) The Word can also refer to Jesus. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

As we read scripture the Holy Spirit will help us to understand the message that God has for us. Therefore, we should not be surprised when different people read the same scripture and come away with different interpretations. They all have the right interpretation – for them. The Word is also alive. So you can read the same scripture for years and then one day something clicks and you have an epiphany and now you see a different meaning, application, or interpretation of the same scripture. This is truly the work of the Spirit delivering the right message to you at the right time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot lead if you are not equipped. The Bible equips men to serve God (2 Timothy 3:17; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). Scripture helps men understand how to be saved from their sin and its road to death (2 Timothy 3:15). Meditating on God’s Word and obedience will bring success in life (Joshua 1:8; James 1:25). God’s Word helps us to identify sin in our lives and remove it (Psalm 119:9, 11). It gives us guidance in life and makes our paths straight (Psalm 32:8, 119:99; Proverbs 3:5-6). Life is full of dangerous snares but the Word will show you the way. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

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

Dr. Todd Shupe is a Christian blogger and president of drtoddshupe.com, a wood science consulting company. He currently serves as president of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is in training to become a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the General 02Commission of United Methodist Men. Todd is a native of Carrollton, IL and retired from LSU as a wood science professor after more than 20 years.

Dr. Todd Shupe, www.drtoddshupe.com
April 2018, Faith Life

Lost at Sea with Deborah Quan

Lost at sea

Deborah stood silently looking over the water, tears slowly gliding down her face. Her hands trembled as she read the letter one last time. Taking a deep breath, she tore the paper into pieces. And then let it go. The words, now scattered, descended into the sea.

The decision had been made. Deborah had chosen to forgive him — for all the hurt feelings she experienced as a child of divorce, for the disappointment of promises not kept, for the ache of missing his presence, for the resentment of responsibilities taken on too young. For all of it. Her head knew about forgiveness, but the pastor’s message that Sunday seemed to be speaking directly to her heart. It was time to absolve her father of mistakes from the past.

Part of Deborah wondered how the wound was still there. It had been, seemingly, a lifetime ago. She was a child of only nine years the day he left. Standing at the ironing board, she heard him tell her mother, “You’re not going to be able to raise these girls without them getting into trouble.” Whatever context that statement may have meant between her parents did not matter. She made up her mind immediately to prove him wrong. She would not get into trouble.

True to her word, Deborah took on the indoor responsibilities at home while her sister took care of the outdoors. They pitched in, allowing their mother to go to work, for the first time since they could remember. Occasional conversations with Dad, now living in a different state with a different wife, felt awkward and strained. Deborah leaned heavily on her faith. She and her sister continued going to church, more frequently than she likes to recall, without their heartbroken mother.

Still underlined in her childhood Bible is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It is a popular verse, often taken out of context, but not for Deborah. While her young heart may not have realized the significance, she found herself in a type of exile, separated from the home she loved. In fact, over time, she followed the Lord’s instructions to the Israelites. She married, had children, and built a home and a life for herself hundreds of miles away. And just as God promised the Israelites, His word rang true for Deborah. His good plans were fulfilled and she was brought home. The restoration that Deborah longed for with her father was yet to come.

She had tried to maneuver it herself, but after making a phone call, all that would remain was an empty feeling. The surface contact was there, but the depth of love that every daughter longs for with her father always felt forced. Her father had met her children and remained a part of her life throughout the 17 years she was married. He  encouraged her the best he could when her husband died of emphysema, even letting  his granddaughter live with him during part of that difficult season. But her heart still had an empty segment carved out for the relationship she longed to have with her father.

Years later, after Deborah’s children were grown and she had moved to Florida, her father came to her college graduation. It was during this time in her life, as an adult, that she heard the pastor speak and wrote the heartfelt letter that never got mailed. Despite her effort, not much changed after that day. Seven years passed. Deborah earned her master’s degree and married a wonderful man named Denny. Life went on.

Four years into her marriage, Deborah received a call from her sister. She needed help with their aging mother. Deborah and Denny left Florida the next day, headed for Dallas.  Deborah knew her father and his wife were also living in the area, but she did not expect the visit to be so emotional. When they walked into the room, her father wept.  It was the first time he met Denny, and he liked him right away. Her father had changed. He was happy. He had re-committed his life to Christ.

The next day, while mom remained in the hospital post-surgery, the rest of the family gathered around the kitchen table. There was something different about this conversation. It was honest and heartfelt. They all seemed to know they were not together on this day by accident – this was a divine time orchestrated for their good. Deborah had not felt like an actual part of the family for so long. She did not want her heart to go another minute without forgiveness. She asked for it and gave it freely. Hugs and tears filled the room as the restoration was for them all – not just Deborah and her father. As a family — a newly bonded family — they grabbed hands and prayed.

Things changed that night. “The Holy Spirit was so thick in the room,” Deborah recalls, tears forming in the corner of eyes. Her heart admittedly came to another understanding too, one she had struggled with for years. “I realized that it didn’t matter who initiates the contact, it is about the relationship.” And this one, that she had longed for since childhood, was finally fulfilled. She had been brought home and restored. The unforgiveness – she had let it go – like unspoken words lost at sea.

Deborah Quan
Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine
Deborah’s Childhood bible and mother’s handkerchief
Baton Rouge April 2018 Denny
Deborah’s father

Sharon Holeman for Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine

Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 American Women, 12 True Stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her Glory and Inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and The Art Institute of Houston. She is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

August 2016, Pastor's Perspective

Bible Study Helps Rebuild Lives and Deepen Scriptural Understanding

by Rev. Gene Rives

GeneRivesEvery Wednesday at noon, people gather at Baker First United Methodist Church for a 15-minute worship service followed by a free community lunch. We started the worship service and lunch a few weeks after hurricane Katrina so that people could gather together and share their stories. Our intent was to do it for 6-8 weeks, but it just never stopped. As the event grew, we started adding different ministry opportunities for people to be involved in. One of those ministries is a Bible study class that starts at 1 p.m. following the lunch.

Currently, we are studying the Gospel of Matthew. There are no requirements to come to the class, no homework assigned, no outside readings necessary, attendance is not taken or mandatory and most of all, we encourage and value everyone’s opinion. Therefore, Bible commentaries (because they are someone’s written opinion) are not read aloud.

Everyone attending the study is considered to be a Bible scholar because their perspective of the Scripture matters. We know that Scripture is God’s word and that it meets us where we are. Therefore, what we have been conditioned by and experienced in life makes our perspective uniquely valuable.

For example, it is one thing to read about the poor in scripture and quite another to have Brenda at the Bible study give her opinion while currently living on the street. Let me just say that the first day she joined the group, and before she spoke, everyone gave nice benign voices to their relatively tame comments about the homeless. Brenda then said, “No one should really ever have to live this way. It is a misery beyond your comprehension. If you have never been homeless you have no understanding of what it is like. Do you think that being homeless is a choice? Do you think anybody wants to be homeless?”

It was in that moment that compassion started to pour over the conversation. It was then that moment people saw Jesus come alive in Brenda, and they now had a deeper understanding of the gospel. You see, most of the time we want to preach the gospel to others. We want to tell people about the good news. But the truth is, if we are willing to experience the word of God with the poor instead of talking about it to the poor, we will see a whole new world open up.

What about demons? Demons are in the Bible. People sometimes make fun of the language, and others don’t understand what the stories mean. How is the Bible relevant for us today? It has been through the Bible study that I have come to understand the power of addiction as being demonic – destroying lives and wrecking families. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex and food are just a few examples of addictions that can control and destroy one’s life.

Bob is, by his admission, a binge alcoholic. He could go for periods of time without drinking, but once he started, he couldn’t quit. He was in and out of the Bible study for a couple of years. He described his life as, “Out of control. It was like every morning I would get up and there would be this presence calling and urging me to have a drink. For a long time I had no problem beating the demon back. But slowly over time I got more and more weary and the demon seemed to be harder and harder to beat. It was like I was in a boxing match and that’s how I started every day. Finally one day the demon knocked me down. I got a DUI. I went to AA and made it six months keeping the demon back, but it finally wore me out. I couldn’t fight the demon anymore. I gave up and took the 10 count and asked God to remove this demon and show me what to do.”

Bob has been a regular attendee for several years. His journey through AA and the Bible has helped it all finally click for him.

Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name I am there among them,” Matthew 18:20.

I believe that when Bible study is done in small groups that are diverse and open, it becomes dynamic. Bible study is not about memorizing scripture or quoting propositions about Jesus. Bible study is not about us trying to change our life, it is about believing that God can change our life.

Shalom.

 

About Gene: Gene is a native of Baton Rouge and an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. He received a calling to ministry in 1995, after 20 years owning and operating his own businesses. Gene is currently serving Baker United Methodist and Bethel United Methodist churches. Gene can be reached via email at: rivesgene@cox.net.