Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gigi

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant” -Matt. 23:11 Jeanie Beadle Staples is an incredible women. Sure, I know I’m biased- she is my wife, after all. But she really is awesome. She is outstanding because she is understanding. She chooses to be a servant. She chooses to follow the Lord’s example. She chooses to love, and these days, she chooses to be a Gigi. God has blessed Jeanie in so many ways. She grew up in a loving family, has raised wonderful children into adults, and has been an amazing wife to me for 35 years. She is a world-class Olympic gymnast, a National Champion at LSU, Hall of Famer, and an excellent Bible study teacher. But her greatest accomplishment is the kids she has touched and loved. She poured her life into her kids, Elizabeth and Eric. Hundreds of little gymnasts took classes with “Miss Jeanie.” With her hands-on touch, kids understood that Jeanie didn’t just care about gymnastics, she cared about them. Jeanie helped build confidence in these kids as they faced their fears. She was and is an awesome coach. And now she is an awesome Gigi. Elizabeth and Mark have our three wonderful grandkids: Reese is six years old, Lucy is three years old, and Griffin two weeks old. I’m not sure where the name “Gigi” came from, but it fits her well. Jeanie’s compassion, sensitivity, and loving heart have won their hearts and her influence is making a huge difference in their lives, even as adults. Griffin was born last week and Jeanie has been in Des Moines loving on Elizabeth and the grandkids. She’s shining like she does in the gym with those little girls. She teaches by loving them. It’s not notes on a blackboard but life lessons lived out through the hugs, smiles, corrections, and hands-on, “in the trenches time” with these beautiful children. She helps them do flips in the yard, reads them book after book, and listens to their stories. The kids love Gigi because she loves them as they are. Her selfless spirit makes all the difference. Thank you Gigi for your wonderful example of what it means to be a loving grandmother. You have been an amazing example of Jesus to so many for so long. Thanks for being a wonderful wife, mother, teacher, coach and friend… …and an awesome Gigi. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid.com

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Half Empty or Half Full?

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” -Col. 3:2 The other day, someone accused me of being an optimist. Actually, they were just agitated with me for not jumping on their bandwagon of frustration and anger towards the “state of America,” as they put it. I prefer the wagon called hope and truth. It’s a better ride and breeds healing and peace. It’s risky and unpredictable but lends itself to true, healthy heart change. It’s always been a popular Christian theme to preach: “America is falling apart and deteriorating like never before. We need to go back to where we once were.” Really? Back to what? To a Civil War? To blatant segregation? To state-sanctioned slavery? To World Wars? To Organized Crime ruling the streets? To gun fights in the streets? As Pastor John Pavolovitz says, “People have always been bigoted, petty, and ignorant, they just all didn’t have free, 24-hour self-promotion machines where they could advertise as much on a regular basis.
 There have always been corrupt governments, contemptible politicians, and hypocritical religious leaders, only now we have more people armed with the resources to unearth and expose them.
Gross injustices against the poor, the LGBTQ community, women, immigrants, and people of color have existed since America was a newborn. We just didn’t have phone cameras to broadcast it to the world and to make it commonplace. Teenagers have always followed the rush of their raging hormones into all sorts of regrettable messes, they just didn’t have Snapchat to preserve it for posterity.” My dad used to say, “Don’t believe what they say about the good ‘ole days. They were ‘hard ole days.’” Disease and war and poverty ruled and rule the day. But God was just as present then as He is now. So was a struggling society. The “world is worse now” theory would imply that the world must have been better a few thousand years ago. We just finished an exhaustive (and yes, I’m tired) full-length study of the book of Genesis. It was wonderful. We discovered again that the early world was a mess! Every sin that is rampant now was equally as destructive then. But God countered every wrong move with His own move of grace. The world, apart from God, was and is a mess. But hope is still alive and well. The truth is, every older generation views the younger generations in worse shape than their own. Simply think back 5o years to the late 60’s and early 70’s in America. Rampant drug problems, the height of the Vietnam War, shooting of students at Kent State by the National Guard, forced segregation and rioting across the nation, Watergate scandal at the White house, Madalyn Murray O'Hair leading the atheist movement across America. Crazy times! They were crazy then. They are crazy now. Yes, we live in challenging times. But times have always been challenging. God is still in control and there is reason for hope. To be fatalistic and negative doesn’t help. It only sends us into a judgmental faultfinding mode. It only promotes bigotry and callousness. True, as God’s people, we don’t need to stick our heads in the sand. But we don’t need to cut off heads either. We need to teach our kids about the love of Christ. We need to train them on what it means to walk with Jesus. We need to address and mingle with a lost world. It’s the only way to spread the hope. We do need to go back to where we once were- back to the Garden where complete dependence was on God and His provision. But the Bible tells us that’s not going to happen. This world is not going to be fixed. But the people in it can be- one person at a time. And, in the big picture of things, Jesus is coming back soon anyway. All of the catastrophic events of the world are just signs of His eminent return. Paul tells us to be encouraged by that truth (1 Thess. 4:18). He tells us to place our hope on the truth that we’ll be forever with Jesus. There is still hope in this world because there is still God in this world. And true hope is only found through compassionate, loving Christians leaning on the awesome God of the Universe. We need to be prayerful on how we’re be used to promote God’s love. Sometimes our message is tough. Sometimes it’s corrective. But if it’s not bathed in love, it’s worthless. Paul likens it to a “noisy gong” (1 Cor. 13). It makes us feel better, but it’s of no value. So, consider taking the “half full” challenge. Cut out “the things that are on earth” and focus on setting your mind on “the things above.” Don’t dwell on the 5:30 national news (it’s all negative). Choose to see the positive. Spend time in God’s Word. Spend time in prayer for our lost world. Share a message of Hope with your neighbor but be a person of Hope as well. Take a drink out of that half-empty cup. It’s not empty. People apart from God are still built in the image of God. They need Him badly. They’re just lost. Embrace them. Love them. Help them. Touch them and let them touch you. You’ll experience God’s peace… …and you’ll discover that the cup is half-full. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Course Corrections

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” -Heb. 12:1 Courses come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the time, they aren’t laid out as we’d prefer them to be. But rest assured, those courses designed by God are absolutely perfect. Our responsibility is to RUN. And run hard. When our son Eric began running this strange sport called “Cross Country,” Jeanie and I were clueless. Neither one of us had ever been involved with the sport. We showed up at Eric’s first race and stood at what we thought was the finish line, waiting for him to finish the race. Soon we noticed that the crowd wasn’t gathering where we were standing. And as the race began, we realized we were standing in the wrong place. We eventually learned that a good “course parent” follows their kids as they run the race. Then they lead you to the finish line. We soon learned why. Cross-country courses are CRAZY! No two courses are the same. They are all designed differently. Like golf courses, every cross-country course has it’s own design. Most are laid out to maximize the athlete. Paul challenges us to run our course well. And all of our “courses” look and feel different. But He has laid out our courses exactly as He wishes. Some courses may seem easier than others, but rest assured, our courses are specifically designed for us alone- not for anyone else. We get in trouble when we compare courses. I have nothing to do with your course. I’m to focus on my course and run it with endurance. “But Lord, his course is better and easier than my course! It’s not fair.” But course designs are not meant to be fair- they are meant to be freeing. When we run our course with endurance, God is glorified and I am blessed. Not blessed with easiness, but blessed with deep down peace. And yes, God is waiting for us at the finish line, but He’s also with us as we run every inch of the race. So run hard. Test your motives. C.S. Lewis said, in his famous book “Mere Christianity,” that at the root of pride is a competitive spirit. We think that, “It’s not enough to be blessed, I have to be more blessed than others.” A life well lived is a life of running our courses well. May we all run our individual courses to the max. No comparing, no competition, no envy- simply using all of the gifts and talents God has given us to run without wavering. Manage your course with endurance… and enjoy the run! By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, April 29, 2016

Stay, Therefore, and Make Disciples

“As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed” -Mark 5:18-20 The Great Commission is a beautiful and necessary calling to all of us as Christians. It is not geographical. The Lord always wants us to “go,” but sometimes “going” means “staying.” He leads some of us to Africa and He leads some of us across the street. While many a godly missionary has sacrificed all for their called people-group, staying in the neighborhood with family might be the more difficult assignment. Bob Bennett wrote a song in the 80’s called ”Man of the Tombs.” It’s easily one of the best-written songs I have ever heard. It describes the story of Jesus and the demon-possessed man, as written by Mark. Check out the lyrics of the song below. You can also watch a great video of the song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSG3hcxAcaI Man of the tombs, He lives in a place where no one goes, And he tears at himself, And lives with a pain that no one knows, He counts himself dead among the living, He knows no mercy and no forgiving, Deep in the night he’s driven to cry out loud, Can you hear him cry out loud? Man of the tombs, Possessed by an unseen enemy, He breaks every chain, And mistakes his freedom for being free, Shame and shamelessness equally there, Like a random toss of a coin in the air, Man of the tombs, he’s driven to cry out loud; Underneath this thing that I’ve become, A fading memory of flesh and blood, I curse the womb, I bless the grave, I’ve lost my heart, I cannot be saved, Like those who fear me, I’m afraid, Like those I’ve hurt, I can feel pain, Naked now before my sin, And these stones that cut against my skin, Some try to touch me, but no one can, For man of the tombs I am; Down at the shoreline, Two sets of footprints meet, One voice is screaming, Other voice begins to speak, In only a moment and only a word, The evil departs like a thundering herd, Man of the tombs, he hears this cry out loud Underneath this thing that you’ve become, I see a man of flesh and blood, I give you life beyond the grave, I heal your heart, I come to save, No need to fear, be not afraid, This Man of Sorrows knows your pain, I come to take away your sin, And bear it’s marks upon My skin, When no one can touch you, still I can, For Son of God I am; Dressed now and seated, Clean in spirit and healthy of mind, Man of the tombs, He begs to follow, but must stay behind, He’ll return to has family with stories to tell Of mercy and madness, of heaven and hell, Man of the tombs, soon he will cry out loud; Underneath this thing that I once was, Now I’m a man of flesh and blood, I have a life beyond the grave, I found my heart, I can now be saved, No need to fear, I am not afraid, This Man of sorrows took my pain, He comes to take away our sin, And bear it’s marks upon His skin, I’m telling you this story because, Man of the tombs I was. What strikes me the most about this story is the directive by Jesus for the man to stay put and tell his story to the people in his hometown. Don’t you know he wanted to go with Jesus and the disciples so badly? He would have left his past and reputation behind and started anew with people that didn’t know. But God shines brightest in the darkness. He loves to use the least. So pray to the Lord of the Harvest to use you. If He says, “go,” to the other side of the world, then best go. If He says “go” across the street, then go there as well. You don’t have to hand out tracts or hold up a sign. Just share your story of Jesus. And God will use you as you go… ..and as you stay. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, February 12, 2016

Commoners

“The Lord said, ‘Whom shall I send?’ I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” -Is. 6:8 Webster defines a “commoner” as “a person who does not have nobility.” In a class society, commoners are not entitled to the same privileges as those of highest status. But in God’s society, He loves to use the broken and weak. God delights in the humble and dependent spirit who leans on His power. What are the requirements for being used by God? What talents do we need to have? What gifting is necessary to be chosen instruments of Christ? Here is a composite list of significant people used by God in the Bible: Paul Paul was a tent-maker and once held an important position in Judaism. He tried to destroy the church and persecute Christians. He had been jailed but was eventually used in great ways to spread the Good News of Jesus across the ancient world. Joseph In the Bible Joseph becomes the Pharaoh's right hand man. Joseph can interpret dreams and he saves Egypt from a famine. Before Joseph was used by God in Egypt, he spent time as a slave and also spent time in prison. Moses Moses was a shepherd and his daily work consisted of herding sheep. He was undoubtedly shocked that God talked directly to him and revealed himself to him. God told him that he was going to lead his people to the Promised Land. Gideon God used Gideon to deliver Israel from Midian but before that Gideon was nothing more than a farmer. Jephthah Jephthah is used by God to deliver Israel from the Ammonites. Before that Jephthah was only known as being the son of a prostitute. David Like Moses, David was also a shepherd but David was just a boy when he defeated Goliath and he would eventually become king of Israel. Esther Like Joseph, Esther was a slave before God used her to save her people from being massacred. Mary Who did God choose to be the mother of Jesus? A famous actress? A celebrity? A great athlete? A famous politician? No, the mother of Jesus was a peasant girl. Matthew Matthew was one of the 12 disciples and wrote one of the Gospels that told about the life of Jesus. But before Jesus asked Matthew to join him he was just a tax collector. Luke Luke traveled with Paul giving him a companion to journey with and Luke would also write one of the four Gospels, but Luke was nothing more than a physician. Peter Many of the disciples were just common fisherman and would go on to do God's work. Peter is the best example as he would be an apostle, a leader of the early church and he would write two letters in the New Testament. I’m not sure how long your resume is these days. But all God requires of us is to be willing and available. As Leroy Eims used to say, “Don't pray ‘God use me,’ pray instead, ‘God make me useable.’” The common link of humility in the above list reflects His desire to use those with contrite hearts. Through prayer, simply ask God to use you, and He will. You may not be able to see the results, but the fruits of surrender to a loving God are always there. Yield to His will for your life and delight in being His instrument. What an honor to be a commoner… …being used by the Lord. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, January 8, 2016

Finishing the Course

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” - 2 Tim. 4:7 It’s 2016 and we’ve all set our usual New Years goals and objectives. Someone defined a “resolution” as “the goals we try to reach during the first two weeks of January.” Funny, but true. But we need goals. We need to set goals to stretch ourselves and reach as far as the Lord allows. But sometimes we don’t reach our objectives. And that’s okay, if we view the journey as the prize. Back in August, three of my favorite football teams set goals as well. All three teams, LSU, Baylor and the Dallas Cowboys, had legitimate, lofty plans to be champions. All three teams were picked to win it all by many. One team even had the potential Heisman trophy winner as their running back. All three teams charged out of the gate and, four games into the season, were on top in the standings! Then, everything changed. Injuries, tougher schedules and fate affected them all. Factors that weren’t predicted back in August, halted the lofty plans. By November, all three teams were out of contention and the Heisman Trophy candidate wasn’t even invited to the Heisman ceremony. Sometimes we set the bar so low that we’re guaranteed not to fail. Sometimes we set the bar so high that we’re guaranteed to fail. But any goal worth setting is a goal with the potential to not be reached. And I know that’s unsettling to us achievers. But success isn’t measured by wins and loses. Success is measured by how well we run the race. We all can be successful runners. But we can’t all finish first. Set goals this year that focus on the race, not the finish line. Set goals that focus on running the course, not winning the medal. Think about your marriage and your family and your career and your friends. Focus on ways you can be used to create quality journeys. True, LSU, Baylor, and the Cowboys won’t be wearing Championship rings this year. But if these teams did their best with what they had, they were winners. The truth is, if I am doing my best with the strength that God has given me, I’m a success. As my friend Wes Neal teaches, “We’re a winner if we “total release” our skills to the best of our God-given ability.” We can all do that one! Paul reminded Timothy to “finish the course” well. He wanted Timothy to understand that a crown waits at the end of the race for all those who love Jesus. Second Timothy 4:8 reads, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” May 2016 be a complete success for you… …whether you win all your games or not. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Friday, December 11, 2015

Holidays With Family: A Beautiful Mess

“Love…does not take into account a wrong suffered” -1 Cor. 13:5 What an odd time of year! Thanksgiving is awesome, Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” and it’s a “jolly” four weeks between the two holidays. Yet, stats expose this month as the most depressive and difficult time of time of the year for most people. But that is certainly not what God desires. His plan is toward peace, contentment and completeness. I think the problem lies in family. Yes, a myriad of ingredients produce this difficult season: the weather can be cold, the pressure to buy gifts is high, the stress of party after party can bog us down, and we’re reminded of the loved ones we miss. But Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays for family. And most families, if not all families, have a grocery list of issues that have not been resolved. One important trend I have discovered in my years of working with families: most families have some form of dysfunction. They have always been like that. Why? Because families are made up of people and all people are wounded, to some degree. Wounds are medicated and healed when they are brought to the light. Family works when family members submit themselves to love one another. Family works when anger accounts are kept empty by reconciliation and forgiveness. But most family accounts are full. I love well-written stories about healing in families. “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean is one of my favorites. This quote from the book describes this family dynamic: “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.” The key is “loving without understanding.” We can all do that one. During these holidays, as we’re around family, may we all reach out to love and give and bless. May we do the hard work of reconciliation and forgiveness to keep our accounts empty and our love flourishing. After all, the more our accounts are emptied, the more capacity we have to love. So, have a holly-jolly Christmas this year and enjoy your family. Love those who are unlovable. That’s what God did for us when He sent His Son to be born and die for our sin. If we have maintenance work of forgiveness to do, then clean the slates during the holidays. Family is difficult and messy. But it’s a beautiful mess. So this holiday season, dive in! Get wet! Love, forgive, touch, interact, and love again. Entertain your beautiful mess and enjoy the season. Realize we can love only because God loved us first… …as a beautiful mess. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com