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Man Up… It’s Easter! How to prepare your heart.

Man Up: Use Lent to Prepare Your Hearts for Easter

I love Easter egg hunts and chocolate rabbits, but there is so much more to Easter. One critical part of Easter is Lent. Lent is the period of 40 weekdays before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, and Sundays are not counted. Lent is often observed with an element of self-denial. I encourage men to lead your family by intentionally observing Lent which will be rewarding experience. Below are some steps to consider on your Lenten journey.

Reflect with your Family

If I don’t use Lent as a time of personal reflection, I run the risk of Easter becoming an excuse to take my suit to the dry cleaners and overdose on chocolate. By observing Lent at home, we can help ourselves and our families grow spiritually. Remember, our primary church is our home. I want myself and my family to understand that we need to prepare our hearts to experience the joy of the resurrection. This begins by examining our hearts for sin and gently explaining the hard reality that our sin is what separates us from Jesus. We are all sinners, and the only one to have walked the earth without sin was falsely accused of a crime (blasphemy). Lent is a time to ask the Holy Spirit to search us and help us clean sin out of our hearts and replace the void with His love and grace.

The observance of Lent can take many forms. There are several devotionals available to help families make Lent a meaningful time of growth and reflection. Speak to your pastor about appropriate devotionals for you and your family.

If your family is not in the habit of daily prayer and Scripture reading, Lent is a great time to start. Lent is also a great time to begin the habit of Christian service and reach out to others with our gifts of presence, prayers, and witness.

Understand True Sacrifice

Lent often involves sacrifice. Historically, the season of Lent commemorates Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness which succeeded his baptism by John the Baptist and proceeded the enemy’s efforts to tempt our Lord to serve him.

Many people choose to abstain from a favorite item or activity during Lent. The purpose of this is, in a very symbolic and in a very microscopic manner, allow us to identify with what Jesus sacrificed for us. When our children are deciding what to fast from, it is important to remind them that a true sacrifice must “cost” us something. This may be giving up video games or candy.

Read Scripture Together

Lent is a great time for the family to carve out time each evening to read Scripture. The Gospels are a great place to learn about the life of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope and life on this earth and beyond. John 14:2-3 captures this hope, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Christ separated Himself from previous prophets by His victory over death. The glory of the empty tomb is beautifully captured in Luke 24:5-6 by the words of the angels to the women when they went to His tomb the next day after the crucifixion. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He isn’t here, but has been raised.” Christ’s death is not the source of our hope. His victory over death is the source of all hope. It is the source of life-everlasting and the forgiveness of sins. Use Lent wisely to prepare your hearts for the blessings of Easter.

About the Author:  
Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is an international expert in wood science.  Todd worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Action Team Member of The Kingdom Group, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.

July 2018, Man Up for LIFE

Man Up, Connecting Men for Christ

Connecting Men for Life

By Elmo Winters

One of the most neglected areas of ministry in our churches is that aimed at men. Some experts credit this extreme lack of interest in reaching men for Christ as one reason for the decline in American families. Most churches provide Bible training, discipleship programs and other activities for their youth, children and women, but too often the male population is left to fend for itself. Men are looked upon as “keepers of the grounds” and maintenance people in far too many settings. Many churches discount the value of having strong male leadership in the church and home.

One organization that addresses this monumental problem is the National Coalition of Ministries to Men (NCMM), which provides a vast pool of resources and networking opportunities that focus on the unique spiritual needs of men. According to its website, the organization “connects the men who disciple men.” NCMM is a partnership of more than 200 organizations, churches and individuals that build men into Christ-followers. NCMM doesn’t minister directly to men, but effectively unites the people and groups that are doing this vital work.

NCMM was founded in 1996 at the height of the Promise Keepers movement when hundreds of thousands of men were filling stadiums across the nation, hungry to know Jesus. In response, men’s ministries were popping up all over the United States. But many of the men who spearheaded these ministries were isolated from one another. Resources were scarce. Many struggled to survive. The big ministries couldn’t help the smaller ones because they didn’t know they existed. Denominational men’s ministries saw a flood of new converts, but lacked the manpower to effectively disciple these men. NCMM was created to connect and encourage these ministries to work together. The goal was to help them do together what no one ministry could do alone. For over 20 years, the organization has fulfilled this goal.

One local ministry, Gulf South Men (GSM) is an active member of the NCMM. Under the leadership of Rev. Mark Lubbock and Bax Kegans, GSM has ministered to the men of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas for many years. In a partnership with Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI), another local NCMM member, Gulf South Men has hosted conferences and conducted numerous training events to reach and disciple men for Christ.

NCMM emphatically maintains, “Our mission is expressed simply with three words: Together, Building Men. We are uniting leaders to amplify their influence. (We) provide visibility, connection, and growth opportunities for ministry leaders to become more influential in discipling men.

The spiritual needs of men across the country and in the Baton Rouge community are being met because of the great work of NCMM. Membership in NCMM is open to all Christian churches and men’s ministry groups, without regard to denomination, ethnicity or culture. For more information, visit ncmm.org.

Elmo Winters is the founder and executive director of Kingdom Group International, Inc., an organization that promotes evangelism, racial reconciliation and unity. He serves on the boards of the National Coalition of Ministries to Men (NCMM) and Gulf South Men of Louisiana. Married to Therese Winters, he is also an author and event speaker.

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
Man Up for LIFE, May 2018

Family: Putting Family First

Family: Putting First Things First

Jimmy and Jennifer Haas regained a healthier marriage and family life once James realized he needed to make his family a priority in life.

You can interchange soul for family in this verse and ask yourself the question, “So what are we losing in order to gain?” This is my story!

I often find myself trying to juggle the many hats I wear. I’m blessed to be a husband to my dear wife, Jennifer, and father to my children Olivia, Wesley, Sophia and Baby H. I’m a locksmith by trade and a minister by obedience. Trying to balance these is not always easy, and often the evidence that things are out of order becomes clear and undeniable. Such a case occurred last year as I found my house out of order due to my absence from home.

While I was out trying to fulfill the call of minister, serving the hurting and afflicted, I was causing pain for my own wife and children. I was working two jobs and doing a lot of volunteer ministry work. It became abundantly clear that my children’s attitudes and behavior were affected and my wife was overwhelmed. My physical health was also suffering and starting to deteriorate. I had allowed myself to become 40 pounds overweight, which was taking a toll on my everyday life.

It was during my quiet time that God spoke to me and said something had to change. I was neglecting the first ministry he gave me, which is the one that resides within my home … my family. God further revealed that my wife and children needed me more than any other ministry. So I began to develop a plan to intentionally foster relational healing in my home. This was a spiritual exercise between my wife and myself, my children and myself, and my wife with the kids. Basically, all of us were to focus on having one-on-one time together and learning to appreciate one another again. I made a commitment to wake up earlier in the morning to enjoy more quiet time with God, to do marriage devotionals with my wife, and to do some physical exercise. Additionally, I made a promise to not be absent from home for any two consecutive nights and to help more with the care of the children. I also took on a new responsibility – helping my wife with food preparations so that we could focus on eating better.

To facilitate the changes, I called for a family meeting where we worked on an activity calendar. We marked off days where we had to be somewhere, free days, date nights, and days for one-on-one time with the kids. We called this our “Connections Calendar.” After a month, we could honestly see some positive changes in each member of our family. As the next few months rolled by, I lost the 40 pounds I had gained and returned to my proper weight.

I had reconnected with my wife and kids on a personal level that we had not had for many years. Thanks be to God that I realized how things were off in my home and regained a healthier marriage and life. The entire family experienced improvements in the areas of physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health.