Friday, January 13, 2017

The Journey

“…I’ve learned the secret of being filled and going hungry…” Phil. 4:11-13 Today we’re flying to Arizona for my nephew’s wedding. It’s been quite a journey already, from the parking garage to baggage check, late arrivals to turbulence, the journey has been difficult. But the time with family and the wedding will be awesome. Journeys worth taking are usually difficult. Life takes us on such multiple walks- most not of our choosing. And that’s okay if we remember that the worth of the walk depends on our willingness not to waiver. We all just finished another walk called 2016. All of us experienced ups and downs. Some days we rejoiced on the mountaintops. Other days we struggled in the valleys. Some days we got ahead and other days we fell behind. Of course, we all love easy days when everything is just clicking. But there’s no growth when times are easy. Mountaintops are great- but nothing grows above the tree line. We learn little when we win. We learn so much more when we lose. Someone once said that “trials don’t produce character, they reveal it.” I think they can do both. Trials send us one of two directions: growth or grouchiness. The sun shines on butter and melts it, and that same sun shines on clay and makes it harder. Same sun but different material- different substance. It’s what James meant when he wrote James 2:1-4 “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result…” We’re all going to encounter trials but we choose whether the difficulty will do us any good. We have to “let it” help us grow. A hard heart grows bitter in trial- a soft heart grows better in trial. A soft, teachable heart is willing to learn and grow. Only a heart that is pliable and flexible can see the purpose in difficulty. I’m hearing the passengers in the seats behind me in the plane describe their “horrible day” and how life has just been “terrible.” They are frustrated about the “airlines not caring because they lost my bag.” They concluded, “We just didn’t have good luck today.” They are like so many of us who define our days by our circumstances. If we’re slaves to the “luck” in our lives, then we’re like a roller coaster- up and down and up and down. But life is more that our circumstances. 2016 was not defined by events. It was defined by how well we let the loving, awesome God of the universe have His way in our lives. It’s why Paul could say, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in.” (Phil. 4:11) How about we make that our goal for 2017: to live above our circumstances instead of underneath them. We can’t do that on our own. Paul goes on to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Let Christ have His way in your life this year, whether the flight is on time… …or delayed. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pure Joy 2016

“For You are our glory and joy…” – 1 Thess. 2:20 It’s Christmas time! There is certainly joy and happiness this time of year! I prefer joy. Happiness rises quickly like a flash flood in the Ozarks and can disappear just as fast, but joy lasts. It sticks around. It has deeper roots. And it’s absolutely wonderful. In it are the necessary ingredients that produce contentment, peace and security. If the joy is pure and God-produced, it is pure joy. Christmas is the season of joy. We sing, “Joy to the World” over and over, and we should. Anything less downplays the context of Christmas. We were lost and blind and sunk. But God stepped in and provided us a way. He sent His Son Jesus to be born, first, then sent Him to die for our sin. He made a way that we might be reconciled to Him. Because of His amazing grace, He made peace with us. He created the very essence of pure joy. The world provides a different kind of joy but it’s a counterfeit. It’s not joy at all. It’s comparison and sorrow and despondency. Of course, the world doesn’t like this season of joy. It’s like a neighbor bragging about their new automobile. That neighbor has something I don’t have, but I want. When pure joy is exposed, the world’s is envious because it doesn’t possess that kind of joy, and it wants it badly. It won’t get excited about pure joy. But it desires it greatly. And it can have it. In a season built for pure joy - envy, malice, and jealousy, instead, rule the day. I know those words are unpleasant but they’re true. Notice they are heart words. Most of these struggles occur at a heart level and that’s where the damage occurs. Joy works in the same way. The source of pure joy is in our hearts. It’s a by-product of God Himself via the Holy Spirit. It works from the inside out. It is intertwined with love. It allows us to “rejoice with the truth,” if we make that choice. Experience joy this Christmas season. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience some sorrow as well. We miss loved ones who have passed on. A lot of pain is exposed during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. We grieve and old feelings are stirred up again. But pure joy can shine through. It doesn’t neglect the sorrow but chooses to grasp the joy. In “A Christmas Carol,” nothing really changed in the life of Scrooge. The difficulties still remained. But he chose to see life differently. “Choose joy”, someone said. “Well, that won’t work in my world,” was the reply. “Then change your world,” he responded. What does it mean to “change our world?” It means we choose to see the bigger picture. It means we don’t choose to live “under our circumstances” but rather above them. It means we yield to a loving God who is our rock and our fortress, 24-7. So, Merry Christmas. Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
May every one of our hearts prepare Him room. May we rejoice in His coming. May we all proclaim His truth. May we not let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground, cause He comes to make His blessings flow. He declares the curse null and void. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness. He is wonderful love and… …pure joy. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Final Election Thoughts…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11:28 Well, here we are! Election time! Like you, I’ve been experiencing V.F. (Voting Fatigue). I made up that diagnosis, but I really am numb to the television and radio political commercials. I GIVE UP! And that’s exactly where we all need to be. By now, we’ve all read excellent articles by many well-known Christian authors. Even though they bring a plethora of perspectives on the election. One theme is crucial: we need to surrender it all to the Lord. It’s clear that we’re to prayerfully vote our own conscience. I am ultimately responsible for me, not you. Like any major decision, I diligently search the scriptures, seek Godly counsel, and submit to the Holy Spirit’s guiding in my life. You don’t have to understand my choices, but I have to be true to my conviction. God’s Word is clear: He is a master over-ruler. God will have His way. He has been moving and shaking nations for a long time. And our beautiful America is no exception. We all love this country and desire the best. One thing is for sure: God will bless America. But His blessings aren’t always easy. Sometimes they are very hard. A loving Father does “discipline the child He loves” (Prv. 3:12). He also disciplines the nations He loves. May we all be prayerful and trusting and peaceful as we lean on His love. His will be done…His will be done. May His will be done. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election

“Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” -Psa. 20:7 My friend, Will Cunningham, took the “words out of my mouth” regarding the election next week…except he said it better! Please prayerfully ponder his excellent thoughts below. Stay secure in Christ! “Friends... sometimes the Lord puts a message on your heart meant only for you. At other times, however, He gives you a message and makes it very clear He wants you to share it. I believe God wants me to share the following words with you: "So... the ballot is filled out, and the envelope is sealed. I cast my vote for Darrell Castle, knowing he can't win the White House. Over the last few weeks, I went back and forth in my mind, struggling to justify what has been called by many Christians... "a wasted vote." Having as much disdain for a Clinton presidency as the next guy, I had come close to letting fear guide my conscience–– and I told myself a vote for Trump would prevent Clinton's success. Recently, however, God brought to mind a similar situation in the life of ancient Israel. With Assyria breathing threats against them, King Hezekiah was tempted to form an alliance with Egypt for protection against her enemy to the north––despite God's warning through prophets that this would be a disastrous idea. After all, the Assyrians had already carried off Israel into captivity––and Hezekiah certainly didn't want to be next. In Hezekiah's mind, such an alliance was the "lesser of two evils". Sound familiar? But God spoke to good king Hezekiah, and He assured him that if he would just stand still, just wait a little longer, God Himself would fight on Judah's behalf. So, Hezekiah abandoned his plan to ally with Egypt, and that very night God sent an angel who slew 185,000 of Sennacherib's soldiers, sending the Assyrians running. Ask yourself, dear friends... What would motivate a Christian to vote for Donald Trump? It certainly can't be admiration, or like-mindedness, can it? I submit that only FEAR of Hillary could motivate such a vote. Consider this... an alliance with Donald Trump is an alliance with immorality and idolatry, the two evils for which God ultimately judged His chosen people. Trump has promised to make us "rich". But all the money in the world won't make us "good", will it? Nor will it save a single fetus, or turn our prideful hearts back to God. Only repentance can do that. Isaiah 30 and 31 are still crying out to us today––warning us not to align ourselves with Donald Trump, the "lesser of two evils". Please read them today, and question the wisdom of such an alliance. I'm thankful you and I have the freedom to cast our votes as we see fit, and I do not judge anyone who votes for Donald Trump. But I'm also thankful that we have historic examples of men, like King Hezekiah, who, in the face of logical defeat, stood strong, believed in God, and didn't cave in to the "lesser of two evils’”. So, remember, the sun will come up (God willing) the day after the election. Our hope is in Christ anyway, not in any elected official. Rejoice in His presence and care. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Boundaries

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” -Prov. 16:9 Boundaries are curious things. We like them but we hate them, at the same time. We like them because they provide safety and security from outside dangers, but boundaries also attempt to instill a level of control to our desire for independence. God-given boundaries ultimately contribute freedom to our lives, our schedules, our jobs and our relationships. They make us better. We love our two-year-old Labrador retriever named Sammy. She loves us too- especially when we’re feeding her! She has a love-hate relationship with her boundaries as well. She loves to wander around the neighborhood and explore in her independence. But she also loves the fence around our yard. It makes her feel safe and confined. Boundaries work well for us as well. Those of us who work in a church setting need fences. Churches can be a strange mix of a crowded “Times Square” atmosphere and a desolate desert. Issues and people line up in an almost constant array of needs, wants and problems. Without boundaries, church workers can get caught in the middle of the chaos. They can be less than their best when care and skills are needed the most. Of course, that’s true in any work or family environment. Jesus had boundaries as well. There was a time when Jesus went to the other side of the lake with the disciples. There was a time when Jesus told the disciples to feed the five thousand. There was a time when Jesus went away to the garden to pray. Jesus’ focus was on the disciples. Remember, “He chose the twelve that He might be with them” (Mark 3:14). He knew He needed time with the twelve. He knew there would be a day when He would be gone and they would be running the show. He needed time to be an influence on them. He knew that unless He drew boundaries, the time would be taken by the needs around Him. We need boundaries as well. And boundaries are determined by our priorities. When we prayerfully set goals for our ministry and life, we insure their success by drawing boundaries around them. We simply can’t be everything for everybody. In the end, we answer to God’s priorities in our lives. We can say “no” or “not now” and be confident that we are setting healthy boundaries. Of course, our boundaries can be trumped by God’s plans. Jesus “went to the other side of the lake” only to be met by the crowd. The disciples wanted to “send them away,” but Jesus submitted to the Father’s plan and met the need. We set the boundaries but God has permission to interrupt. With the interruption, He’ll provide the strength and the plan. Our plans need to be flexible. When we’re inflexible with 0ur plans, we pay a price. Joe Brown was the fiery governor of Georgia during the Civil War. He refused to let Georgia soldiers cross the Georgia border to fight for the larger Confederacy. He honored the Georgia boundary but he was too tight. He only wanted Georgians to fight for Georgia. Several battles happened just over the state line, but the soldiers weren’t allowed to go fight. Perhaps letting those soldiers cross the border would have helped win those battles. In the end, Georgia (and the rest of the Confederacy) lost the war. When the boundaries are too tight, we become less usable by the Lord. We need to set boundaries but submit to His will. We need to be willing to lovingly say “not now.” We need to be willing to set priorities. We need to be willing to be a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser. Let the Lord set your priorities, be safe behind your boundaries… …and let the Lord have His way. By Eric Joseph Staples© www.lifeaid101.com

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This Old House

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” -Jer. 29:11 Change can be so difficult. When the “old normal” is replaced by the “new normal”, it doesn’t feel normal at all! This past week, we moved my mom from Fort Worth to Branson. She is 89 and we have no family left in Fort Worth, so we’re glad she is here and safe. But it shuts the door to the Staples family connection to Fort Worth. And as we put the “Home place” up for sale, we move on to a new chapter. The old house will be missed. It was the “training ground” for the Staples family for nearly 50 years. But we trust the God has great plans for the future. In summer 1967, Pelham Staples loaded up his wife, four boys and Cocker Spaniel and moved them from Montgomery, Alabama back to Fort Worth, Texas where they’d lived four years earlier. Dad had been in the Air Force for 22 years and was stationed at various bases around the world. I was born in Germany and my three brothers at military bases around the U.S.. But this stop in Fort Worth would be the final chapter in the Staples family history. We loved our life on the bases. My mother was always secure in the four boys living inside of the heavily guarded SAC bases and my dad enjoyed the medical structure of military medicine. But when my dad “retired” from the Air Force, he kept on practicing medicine in Fort Worth and we grew up in the real world. I’m sure the adjustment was difficult for the family. There was no longer a barbed wire fence to protect us from the outside world. We lived in an awesome home in a new neighborhood. And the house was full of the lives of this large family. Over the years, we added on to the house and changed some of the landscape, but the home stayed relatively the same. Under the roof of that beautiful home, all four boys would experience life. We would have slumber parties in the bedrooms, have countless football games in the backyard, all finish out high school, come home for visits from college, decide on our careers, make our brides a part of the family, and share our home with a bunch of grandkids. Mom and Dad Staples would eventually retire and enjoy only a few brief years of time together before my dad passed away. That home would be a place of grieving for my mom and for the whole family as well. And then a whole new generation of grandkids and great-grandkids would come to play in that huge backyard. The trend today, in the neighbor where we grew up, is to tear down the old houses and rebuild new houses on the attractive lots. Our house is pretty battered and old, but the home will never go away. They may indeed tear down the house, but the Staples home continues in the families of the grandkids and great- grandkids. After all, houses are built on lots; homes are built on family; houses are made of wood, homes are made of security and trust; houses are filled with furniture, homes are filled with love; houses wear away, homes always remain. Thank you God for that beautiful home in Fort Worth. As we prepare to pass it on, I am thankful for the legacy of the family of Pelham Staples. It was and is a home built on integrity, honesty, hard work and faith. I am honored to be a part of that family. My dad, and two of my brothers, Pelham Jr. and Marc, have passed on. But the legacy lives on. Thank you Lord for our beautiful old house… …but thank you more for our wonderful home. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Monday, July 18, 2016

Crazy Elections, Part Two

“Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command” 1Chr. 12:32 The verse above, First Chronicles 12:32 reminds us that we need to be in touch with our crazy world and in touch with how God wants us to be a part of the times. But there is a big difference between being “in touch” versus being “overwhelmed.” As Christians, we are not to be of this world, but we are to be in this world. As we approach politics and elections, we need to be people who lean on God- we need to be people of prayer. Here are some of my thoughts mixed with wisdom from Bryan Roberts: 1. Remember that there are Christians in both parties! There are strong Christians on the left and secular people on the right. Stereotyping is defined as “an oversimplified opinion or image.” Prejudice is “a perceived opinion not based on reason.” Discrimination is “the unjust treatment of people on grounds of sex, religion, etc.” We all tend to group people and judge people to try and make sense of it all. Jeremiah 17:9 and Matthew 15:19 remind us that our judging hearts are “deceitful and evil.” But God is not. In Christ, we have the capacity to love and review life Biblically and objectively. 2. National news only wants high ratings. They mix in the worst of the worst to push our buttons. They play on fear and paranoia. Ask yourself, “Am I spending more time focused on news than I am focused on Jesus?” Maybe you need to skip the 5:30 news and instead focus on God’s Word and prayer. There is no security in CNN or the Weather channel. There’s nothing wrong with TV, but let’s not make it our security blanket- there is no security there. 3. Scripture says we need to pray for our leaders. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior…” -1Tim. 2:1-4 “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” -Rom. 13:1-7 Scripture is clear. We’re to humbly pray for our leadership. 4. Don’t be paranoid. God has given us confidence. This world is not our home. We’re aiming for something bigger. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” -2Tim. 1:7 Don’t look for security in our government. Certainly, we love and defend this great country, but we don’t look to the United States to meet our greatest needs. Only a loving God can do that. 5. If a person is ruling, God did allow that to happen. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” -Rom. 13:1 The Bible is full of stories about interesting leadership. Some turned to God and some did not. But there’s no way to get around it- it all happened and happens under His watch. 6. Anger does no good. “…for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” -James 1:20 Anger and rage and slander only fuel the fire of hate. In Christ, we love and the flames of hate are extinguished. May the peace of Christ rule in our heart’s today. 7. Above all, pray. “Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:7-8 Day and night prayer! That’s what we are called to do. It seems too simple. But it’s vital. Were all aiming for something bigger than now. The book of Revelation tells us that things will be bad on the earth when Jesus returns. Not today bad, but bad-bad. So we turn to Him. We pray to Him. We cry out on behalf of our leaders. We appeal to our loving God to change the hearts of our national leaders to lean on Him. We choose peace, contentment and security… …as we lean on Jesus. By Eric Joseph Staples© www.lifeaid101.com