About five years ago, an Iron Sharpens Iron Equipping Men's Conference helped Todd Shupe take his spiritual walk to a new level.

"It had a tremendous affect on me," said Shupe, a member of St. Andrews United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge. "And it really improved by relationship with Christ and helped me become a better Christian, a better father and more engaged in my church and community."

Shupe will be among the organizers for the next Iron Sharpens Iron national conference set for 8:30 a.m. to 4:55 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at Parkview Baptist Church, 1795 Jefferson Highway.

The conference, for ages 13 and older, is hosted by the Baton Rouge-based Gulf South Men, a nondenominational group of men's ministries from Texas to Alabama that provides resources and helps equip men to deal with life's challenges. It will feature 16 seminars and two keynote speakers: Kelvin Cochran and Chuck Stecker.

Shupe, 47, already was an active member of the men's group in his church when he attended that first Iron Sharpens Iron conference. He expanded his service through the Gulf South Men.

"At that point, I just found a desire to give back because I had been blessed, and I just wanted to be a part of the process to bless others," Shupe said. "I joined Gulf South Men and got actively involved and contributed with my time and money and my prayers."

Shupe, a native of Illinois, said he was working in the church but it didn't seem like it was enough.

"I felt that even though I'm in church and active, I felt there was still something missing," he said. "I think I was just kind of going through the motions. I hadn't truly become a disciple."

He also sees that in other men.

"I think a lot of men get trapped into going to church and maybe just showing up for a few events and that's it," said Shupe, district president for the United Methodist Men. "But they are not truly a disciple of Jesus, and they're not striving to be his witness. They not striving to be engaged in scripture everyday. They're not striving to lead their families everyday, not striving to grow closer to Christ and receive his grace."

The goal of the Iron Sharpens Conference is to assist men in those areas.

"This is a high-energy, spirit of Christ is definitely present event," Shupe said. "There are topics for men of all ages. It makes no difference if you're a new Christian, a mature Christian, young, old, black or white. There will be a topic and speaker that will speak to your heart."

One of the key topics the seminars will discuss is pornography.

"Local churches are hesitant to address this topic," he said. "It's a taboo subject. Yet, it is a problem that many men, even clergy struggle with. It is the most heavily attended breakout session. That tells you men are struggling with it and looking for freedom." 

Other breakout seminars will include: "Becoming a Man not Just Another Guy" for (ages 13-19), "Building Emotionally Healthy Men," "Grandfathering — More than a Second Chance to Get it Right!," "I've had a Turn Around — Now What?," "Radical Ways to Reach Men," "Strategies for Intergenerational Ministry," "Successfully Addressing the Race Issue" and "Why and How of Reaching Men in the Workplace."

Shupe is excited about Cochran and Stecker as the keynote speakers.

"I know both of these men, and they are top-notch speakers. They have a national following," he said. "They are dynamic speakers."

Cochran was named the first black fire chief of Shreveport before going on to become fire chief in Atlanta. He was appointed by President Barack Obama as U.S. fire administrator, working extensively with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Stecker is the president and founder of A Chosen Generation, of Littleton, Colorado. He has served in key leadership positions as an Army lieutenant colonel, including three years on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

The conference concludes with an altar call.

"Nothing puts a smile on my face — and I believe on God's face — than when there is an altar call and men respond and come up and dedicate their lives to Christ for the first time," Shupe said. "That's moving and that's very special."

There is a fee for the conference, but Shupe said assistance is available.

"We will not turn anybody away that needs help," Shupe said.

For more information, contact Shupe at (225) 773-3015 or at tfshupe@gmail.com; Gulf South Men President Mark Lubbock at (225) 252-3331 or marko@gulfsouthmen.org; or go to gulfsouthmen.org or ironsharpensiron.net.

'Do It Again'

God is intentional. He never does something just to do it. That was the message guest speaker Dharius Daniels delivered to a spirited revival crowd Monday at Bethany Church in Baton Rouge.

"Because he's intentional, when he's doing something, he's doing something intentionally," said Daniels, lead pastor of Change Church, of Ewing, and Westampton, New Jersey. "And because he's intentional, when he does nothing, he's doing nothing intentionally. … So I praise him when he's doing something because he's doing something. And I'll praise him when he's doing nothing because when he's doing nothing, he's doing something, because he's doing nothing on purpose."

Daniels was the opening speaker for the Nights of Revival on Jan. 8-10 at the Bethany South campus. Other speakers were Todd White, founder and president of Lifestyle Christianity ministries near Dallas, and Glen Berteau, senior pastor of Calvary Temple Worship Center in Modesto, California.

Daniels' message was "Do It Again," and he preached about Jesus healing a blind man in Mark 8:22-25.

"I want somebody who believes that is the God of the do-over to shout, 'Do it again,' " Daniels said to roars of the packed crowd. "If you did it before, you can do it again. If you fixed it before it, you can fix it again. If you opened the door before, you can open it again."

That principle of God intentionally doing something again provides some perspective in the healing of the blind man, Daniels said. Jesus touched the man's eyes and asked the man what he could now see.

In Matthew 8:24, the man responded, "I see men as trees, walking."

Then Jesus touched the man's eyes "once again," according to Verse 25. Daniels said those words "once again" is key because some would question if Jesus failed because the man could not see clearly after the first touch.

"Have you ever felt like he touched something but you still saw men as trees?" Daniels asked. "Have you ever felt like he touched something and you don't have eyesight, you go tree sight? It's better than it used to be but not as good as it's supposed to be. … Have you ever experienced God touching something and it feels like the touch was a tease?"

But the man was able to see clearly after the second touch.

"Was the first touch not good enough or because God is a God of intentionality?" Daniels said. "Maybe two touches were not a coincidence. Maybe the two touches were intended to teach something. Maybe God's trying to assure you and me about something we need to be reassured about from time to time."

Daniels said the man may have a season in his life when could see but then lost his vision. He then told the crowd that God is trying to restore some spiritually sight to some of them.

"I want to know if there's anyone in Bethany tonight who knows what it's like to see and then lose your vision," he said. "There are people in this room who you see something for your heart, you may see something for your resources, you may have seen something for your children, you may have seen something for your business, you may have seen something for your marriage, and you know what it's like to see something in one season and go blind in the other."

No matter the season or situation, God can offer another touch, Daniels said.

"You may feel forgotten, you may feel abandoned, you may feel God will not be faithful to his word, but he sent Mark 8 to remind you and me that he's a God that will do it again," Daniels said. "This is revival, and revival is the time when God does it again."

Another day. Another blessing.

From my daily devotion (Jan. 1):

Another day. Another blessing. Another year. In the Children of Israel's journey, Moses had died, and God called Joshua to be the new leader.

Joshua was trained by Moses but Joshua still may have been a little bit hesitant, but God encouraged him. God knew Joshua was going to be facing some hardships, trials and hell even from his own people.  

Joshua 1:5-8, says, "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them."

I believe that's the theme God has given me for 2018: to be strong and courageous. To be strong in my walk with him, to be strong in my faith, strong in my leadership, strong in my ministry, strong in my finances, strong on my job, strong physically.

To have courage in my walk with him, not to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and share Christ not just on Sundays or on evangelistic outings but everyday of the week and with anyone.

To have the courage to stand for what's right. To stand up to sexism, racism and hate.

God told Joshua that no one would be able to stand against him, reminding me of what the Apostle Paul said years later that, "No weapon formed against me was going to prosper." God promised he'd never leave me nor forsake me. That's a promise I can stand on in 2018. Because 2018 will have its heartaches, challenges and tribulations. But God is preparing me and you now to be "strong and courageous" no matter what we face.

Faith Matters run every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 383-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com