A Prayerful Life

A Prayerful Life

16Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

The Bible has much Scripture that encourages us to seek God through prayer.  The Gospels and the Epistles are particularly filled with Holy Scripture that encourages us to seek God’s face through prayer.   Our direct line of communication to God is prayer.  It is a deeply personal process by which we bring Him our prayers of thanksgiving and supplication.  We go into our inner room and pray to our loving Father with full confidence that He hears us and will act on our behalf in the perfect manner and time. 

1 Thessalonians 5:17 calls us to “pray continually” and other translations will indicate “without ceasing.”  I don’t think we are expected to spend all of our life on our knees in prayer.  I do feel that we can and should lead a prayerful life.  This includes having a prayerful attitude.  Look at the context of “pray continually” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  The Scripture begins with “Rejoice always” and then tells us how by “pray continually.”  It concludes by giving the reason: “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   

A prayerful life has two fundamental components.  First, we are constantly aware of the many blessings that we have because of Him.  Second, we are able to be grateful in any circumstance.  We are not grateful for all circumstances because some circumstances are evil and not from God.  However, just as Paul was able to find joy while shipwrecked or in prison, we can find joy in our adversity because we wait with child-like anticipation of how He will use it for good.

A prayerful attitude is developed by acknowledging our dependence on God (Proverbs 3:5-6), realizing He is always with us (Isaiah 41:10), and choosing to trust and obey (Psalm 9:10).  Prayer then becomes a continual process of offloading our fears and worries and uploading His love and grace.  In a prayerful life, we put God first not out of obligation or fear but out of faith and love.  Matthew 6:33 instructs us to, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.”  If we do put God first, then He will surely give us His provision and protection as the good Father. 

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, We thank you for the gift of prayer and the comfort of knowing that you hear all of our prayers.  We thank you for the comfort of knowing that you desire greater things for us than we can ever imagine.  Help us to develop a deeper sense of appreciation for our blessings.  Keep us mindful that we can find joy in all circumstances because we know that any adversity we face on earth is temporary and will be used by you for our good.  Help us to always prayerfully proceed in life and seek your kingdom first in all that we do.  Amen.

Are You Living To Do or Living To Serve?

Are You Living To Do or Living To Serve?

I like to make “to do” lists.  I don’t trust myself to remember the various big and little chores I need to do at home or at work so I always have a list for both.    The list is great for helping me keep track of projects and staying on top of things.  I feel a sense of accomplishment when I can cross something off of the list.  A close friend recently asked me about my attention to my list.  I appreciate his candor and honesty, and it has really gotten me to think about things.

In short, his point was do you control the lists or they control you?  They can certainly be a useful tool, but they also have the potential to control you and dominate your thoughts and time.  I began to wonder if my lists were a false idol.  I have used the lists to organize my time and how you spend your time is how you identify your priorities.   Household chores and work tasks are critical and should not be taken lightly but nobody on their death bed ever claimed that they wished they had done a better job of mowing their grass. 

A workaholic is not honoring God.  If you make your work at home or at work your master, you have in essence place another god before Him.  My friend and I both had our houses flooded in 2016.  I admire his ability to go on a vacation during the recovery and rest and renew his physical, mental, and spiritual strength.   I have tended to take on a pit bull attitude with big projects – bite down and stay with it until the end.   I also don’t think approach is consistent with Holy scripture.  

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work but the seventh ay is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 8-11).

Living according to lists is living a life “to do.”  However, we are not called to do but rather “to serve.”  Perhaps instead of numbering my chores I should consider the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:12.  “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Living a life to serve takes away the inward focus and replaces it with an outward focus to be the Body of Christ. 

We can number our days by asking God each day “What can I do this day to advance Your kingdom?  How can I make my life a living sacrifice?  Numbering your days does not require moving mountains.  But when you realize that your days are numbered and time is precious, you begin to want to use your time wisely.  Using your time wisely is certainly the fruit of a heart yearning for God’s wisdom. 

Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science.  Shupe worked as a  professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Five Challenges Facing the Church Universal Explained by Todd Shupe

todd shupe baton rougeEvery church is the Holy House of God. However, the real church is the people and not the building. Therefore, each church has challenges that it must overcome to be successful. The church universal is a blessing from God. The holy covenant of marriage is applied to Christ and the body of believers is known as the church. The church is comprised of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have received eternal life. Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25–27).  This union is the same union as expressed in Mark 10:8: “… and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

“Christ lives in all of us. This is what is mean by ‘living in The Sprit’ rather than ‘living in the flesh,’” said Todd Shupe, a dedicated Christian ministries volunteer. “Consequently, we approach church with a desire to give as a joyful response to all that we have received from His hand.”

Below are five challenges of each church. All can be summarized to one root cause: Failure to live in The Spirit.

  1. Discipleship: It is great to attend church on Sunday. We attend to worship, pray, sing, and fellowship. However, it is important that we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior and follow him, says Todd Shupe, a Baton Rouge resident. Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” A disciple has the love of God in his heart and a desire to fish for men. He generously shares his prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to build up the church.
  2. Leadership: All leaders of all organizations, Christian or secular, need to develop plans to replace themselves, transfer knowledge to the new person and then support the new leader. Jesus modeled this by teaching His disciples and preparing them for leadership, recounts Todd Shupe. He supported their works though the Holy Spirit. Also, St. Paul took Timothy and Titus under his wing and prepared them for leadership.
  3. Gossip: We are called to build one another up and not tear each other down with gossip and slander. James 4:11 tells us, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.” Ephesians 4:29 instructs us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  4. Forgiveness: If we are going to work together for the glory of God, we must be able to forgive each other. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15).
  5. Fear: A church must not be afraid of trying new ministries after prayerful consideration, says Baton Rouge resident Todd Shupe. Joshua 1 is a great chapter for those seeking courage. Multiple times, God instructs Joshua to be bold and courageous. In Joshua 1:9 we read, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Don’t be afraid of new things.  God instructs us in Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Getting To The Heart Of The Issue With Baton Rouge’s Todd Shupe

todd shupe lsuOver the years, I have spoken to many Christians and enjoyed having the opportunity to hear their testimony. Some are “intellectual Christians,” so to speak, and believe that science has proved the existence of Christ and therefore they also believe. Many have provided me with compelling arguments for their Christian faith. Former LSU professor Todd Shupe also believes that science has proven that Christ walked the Earth “and I can provide strong arguments to support that fact and my belief in God,” he said.

However, at the heart of the issue is our heart,” says Todd Shupe, of Baton Rouge. “Do you believe in Him in your heart and seek him with your whole heart?”

God gave us a brain and He certainly wants us to use it to better understand Him. He also seeks a relationship with us and a true relationship must come from the heart. Below are five Biblical themes that emphasize the importance of your heart in your Christian walk.

1. Trust: Trust is probably the most fundamental component in any relationship. We may not always understand His ways, but we are called to trust and obey. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, (Proverbs 3:5).

2. Love: Any meaningful relationship must be built on love, says Baton Rouge’s Todd Shupe. This is especially true with God because God is love, (1 John 4:8).

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” (Matthew 22:37).

Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30).

3. Seek: Jesus asks us to seek Him, says Todd Shupe, LSU’s former wood science lab director. He is asking for us to daily die to our sinful ourselves and live in Him. To do so, we must daily seek His face.

But if from there you seek the Lord, your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13).

4. What Comes Out of the Heart: Jesus was making a new covenant with the people who were unable to maintain the Mosaic law. Food preparation was very important under the old law and was considered necessary to earn your salvation.

[Jesus] said, “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart,” Mark 7:14-15.

5. Guard your Heart: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” (Proverbs 4:23).

Our words and opinions first originate in our heart,” says Todd Shupe, of Baton Rouge. If we guard our heart and only allow love to enter our heart, then love will flow out of our mouths and will be the basis of our action and ministry. Be blessed.

Faith Is An Overwhelming Force Of Good For Families, Friends And Children, Todd Shupe Says

todd shupeIt almost seems counterintuitive: faith in a higher power is a driving force behind ill will. However, that’s the stance many take and they’ll point to extreme examples of domestic and international terrorism as a way to prove their point. It’s a bit overblown, says National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia director W. Bradford Wilcox. What’s more, Wilcox asserts in a Washington Post op-ed that citing examples of shootings outside of abortion clinics is also a bit overblown. That’s because, as Wilcox points out, research shows Americans who regularly attend religious services are less likely to cheat on a spouse, abuse them or divorce. Todd Shupe, a faithful Christian volunteer who has given his services to religious groups across the country, wholeheartedly agrees. As Wilcox points out in his exploration of the effects of faith, a recent survey shows that children who go to church are also more likely to benefit from home-cooked meals, exhibit better social skills and even receive more hugs from parents. With such wholesome benefits stemming from church attendance, Todd Shupe ponders why anyone would consider being faithful a negative trait.

The reason why Todd Shupe questions the seemingly critical look that some in society give regular church attendance is because he’s seen the good it can do. He has gleaned such first-hand knowledge through his involvement with Promise Keepers, United Methodist Men, Walk to Emmaus, Gulf Men South, Iron Sharpens Iron and other ministries. What’s more, Todd Shupe has volunteered with Grace Camp as a fishing instructor for children of incarcerated parents; worked with Open Air Ministries to deliver services to the homeless in Baton Rouge; helped sell advertising for Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine; was past chairman of St. Andrews United Methodist Church board of trustees and serves as the database coordinator for Gulf South Men.

The above are merely examples of volunteer work. Todd Shupe has unquestionably practiced what he preaches and regularly offers insight to friends and family who may be in need of the word of God. For example, he recently published a blog here regarding the importance of forgiveness. In that article, Todd Shupe took the time to find passages from the scripture that clearly conveys why we need to give others a chance at redemption if we hope to one day receive such mercies. Circling back to the Washington Post op-ed, Wilcox closes by saying that religion in America is “a source of inspiration” that benefits friends and families. Todd Shupe, who has seen first-hand the effects that a comforting word from the Bible can have, couldn’t agree more.

Loneliness: Todd Shupe Says There’s A Time To Give And Time To Receive

todd shupe

Loneliness can be a problem for nearly everyone at some point. It is particularly problematic with widows, orphans and incarcerated individuals. Citing a recent University of Chicago research study, Todd Shupe says that good friendships can reverse feelings of loneliness.

We all yearn for a “wind beneath our wings,” to quote from a Bette Midler song. We must realize that that wind already exists. Ezekiel 37:1-14 and “The Valley of Dry Bones” is a great story. Ezekiel was in a valley of dry bones and God commanded him to prophesy to the bones.

The bones eventually came together and skin formed, but they lacked 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.”

You may also recall the story of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. Todd Shupe, a former LSU professor and long-time Christian ministry volunteer, says Jesus was asleep and the winds became severe and scared the disciples. They awoke Jesus and He rebuked the wind and calmed the sea. So, it is clear that God controls the wind.

The wind is already beneath our wings. We can find that wind by reading scripture, yoking up to fellow Christians in small groups, and hearing His word proclaimed at church. “I love the scripture recounting the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17),” says Todd Shupe. Following the baptism, God spoke down from heaven, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” You too are a child of God and He takes great delight in your well-being. He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Romans 8 tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Loneliness is a darkness and we cannot live in darkness. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). God is shining His light on your darkness now. I encourage you to open your hearts and receive His light and love.

For those that are not lonely, I encourage you to pray and ask God to identify who can you help? We are in community with each other. Those that are not struggling should help those that are. In time, you will be in need and others will come to your aid. There is a season for all things (Ecclesiastes 3); a time to give and a time to receive. Please prayerfully consider your role at this time. Blessed be the giver and the receiver.

Todd Shupe’s Take On Prayer: Approach With Confidence And Thanksgiving

todd shupe

Prayer is an essential component to our relationship with God. We offer prayers for those who are sick or in need of help and prayers of thanksgiving for our blessings. Prayer is also a time for us to be quiet and listen for the gentle voice of God. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Todd Shupe has decided to focus on this scripture while waiting for God’s gentle whisper.

“Even if I don’t hear a response to my prayer, I still come away with peace and comfort knowing that God is God and He loves me more than I can begin to understand,” says former LSU professor and faith-based volunteer Todd Shupe. “This gives me a peace that transcends all understanding and prepares me to hopefully be a better witness and brother today than I was yesterday.”

According to Todd Shupe, it is important for us to approach prayer in the right manner.  The Bible tells us what to pray — “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) — and also how to pray: “In your room,” (Matthew 6:6).  However, it does not necessarily tell us how to prepare for prayer.

Todd Shupe, a former professor at LSU, feels that too many Christians approach prayer in one of two ways. First, many come to God in fear and doubt. We know that God can do what we are asking — but are fearful that He will not do it as we want or when we want.

“The second group of Christians I refer to as the ‘Santa Claus Christians.’ They think that if they are good all year then when they make a prayer request to God that He is “obligated” to do as asked. In both cases, resentment can develop if God does not provide what is asked and when it is asked,” says Todd Shupe, a former LSU professor.

According to Todd Shupe, it is important at this point to note that we follow God. God does not follow us and this fact provides the opportunity to tell the story of God leading His people in Exodus 13:21-22. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”

“I encourage you to approach prayer with confidence and thanksgiving that God already knows what you need and is already at work in delivering it to you,” says Todd Shupe. “Also, what He provides will likely not be what you requested. Instead, it will be better and it will be a holy blessing upon you. God loves you more than you can ever understand.”

He will most certainly listen and respond to your prayers. We must be open to His response and accept it with gladness and thanksgiving because any gift from God is precious and holy — as was His son.

Todd Shupe Explains ‘Fruit of The Spirit’ Attributes

“The Fruit of the Holy Spirit” is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a Christian, says Todd Shupe. According to Paul the Apostle in his Epistle to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-23).
These are all characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s active presence in lives and a healthy Christian soul contains all of the fruits. In this article, former LSU professor Todd Shupe explains the nine attributes.
1. Love: Love gives freely without looking at whether the other person deserves it and it gives without expecting anything back. “Agape” describes the unconditional love God has for the world.
2. Joy: Joy is contentment that is independent of the good or bad things that happen to us, says Todd Shupe. True joy is evident in gladness during hard times (James 1:2-4). This is a supernatural joy that comes from the Spirit and is present regardless of our circumstances.
3. Peace: Peace from the Spirit and transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and gives us a sense of calm knowing that God is in control and He loves us dearly.
4. Patience: Other words that describe this fruit are lenience, long-suffering, forbearance, perseverance and steadfastness. Patience includes the concepts of forbearance, long-suffering and the willingness to bear wrongs patiently (Romans 5:3-4).
5. Kindness: This fruit is evident in a desire to serve others, according to Todd Shupe, a former LSU professor. Kindness is the light that will conquer the darkness (malice).
6. Goodness: True goodness is the character of God. Goodness is exhibited by your desire to see goodness in others and recognize all others as children of God.
7. Faithfulness: A faithful person has integrity beyond reproach. We walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
8. Gentleness: Gentleness chooses to defer to others. It forgives others, corrects with kindness and lives in tranquility.
9. Self-control: Self-control is dying to our self and our desires of the flesh. It is choosing to live in the Spirit and follow His will.
We should all periodically review this list. One of the hardest things we can do is an honest self-evaluation of ourselves. John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church, recognized this and organized “class meetings” in which attendance was mandatory and participants were asked to honestly answer questions regarding their spiritual health. The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. A disciple should be able to honestly assess his or her status on the nine fruits of the Spirit above.
“I pray that we all will be a better disciple each day and will help bring about transformation of the world,” says Todd Shupe.

Todd Shupe Talks Self-Control: ‘Fools Lose Their Temple; Wise Men Hold It Back’

The Bible teaches us that self-control is essential to living a Christian life. We must exercise our self-control or we become controlled by our weakness. Our weakness may be food, alcohol, drugs or pornography. Todd Shupe says that enemy knows our weakness better than we do ourselves and will encourage us to go to it rather than God in times of need. According to Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, our lives can soon be dominated by our weakness and we are living completely in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. Self-control is the very essence of “dying to self” and living in righteousness with God. Our righteousness cannot — and will not ever — come from ourselves, but only as a means of grace from God as a result of totally surrendering yourself to His will and becoming His disciple.

If you are struggling with self-control, Todd Shupe encourages you to first begin with prayer and ask God for His help. Then, go into the Bible and study and memorize some particular verses that speak to you and your particular situation. For me, my go-to verse in times when my patience is growing thin is Proverbs 29:11. It reads in part, “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” We must remember that all wisdom comes from God.  So how does one obtain wisdom?  James 1:5 tells us, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

The exercise of self-control will not only keep us away from our temptations but will allow us to be a powerful witness for God. You may ask, “How can I be a good witness for God by exercising self-control?” The best witness is one who demonstrates his faith with his actions. St. Francis of Assisi encouraged people to speak the gospel wherever they go and use words when necessary.

Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, says that self-control will allow you to remain silent when verbally attacked.  It will allow you to respond with love when confronted with hate. Self-control will also keep you pure when you are alone.  Self-control will also keep you sane in times of great adversity, such as a flooded home, divorce or loss of a family member. We freely and willingly yield control of ourselves to God and instead of worrying about what will happen, we stand steadfast in His promise of Romans 8:28. The passage reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Self-control does not mean that we are to go it alone. Life is tough and we need fellow Christians for the journey. We need accountability groups that are small, honest and safe so we can be vulnerable and encouraging to each other. Christ encouraged us to come to Him with our burdens and He will give us rest. Read Matthew 11 and then fasten your yoke to a friend!

Todd Shupe Discusses Prayer, Its Purpose And Proper Daily Use

Perhaps one of the most intimate means available for us to communicate with God is through prayer. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 55 percent of all Americans report that they pray each day. The same study also states that, at a rate of 14 percent, more American women pray daily compared to men. According to Todd Shupe however, a 55 percent would be a failing exam grade for us overall. That’s an F, folks.

“I think many of us have a false perception of God.  We see God as Santa Claus and approach Him with our lists of requests when we are in need — but seldom go to God with prayers for others or prayers of thanksgiving for ourselves during good times,” Shupe said.

Todd Shupe believes that it is important to understand the purpose of prayer: It is not to bend the will of God to be in accordance with your desires. Rather, prayer is an important way for you to discern the will of God for you in your life. Then, you should follow God; do not attempt to get God to follow you.

According to Todd Shupe, perhaps the highest form of prayer comes in Jesus’ words in Gethsemane: “Yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus did not say, “Your will be borne,” which is how we often translate it. He said, “Your will be done,” which implies a cooperation with an outgoing, redemptive will that desires our highest good.

The Bible is full of scripture that explains the benefits of prayer. Below are seven of the favorite prayer related scriptures of Todd Shupe. You will notice a very consistent theme in them all, which is very similar to the “knock, seek, ask” scripture of Matthew 7:7. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Mark 11:24

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

John 15:7

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

1 John 5:14-15

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 3:22

And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

John 14:13-14

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Todd Shupe’s favorite prayer related scripture is Psalm 66:20: “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.” Be blessed and be in prayer each day!