Thursday, July 22, 2021

Making Sense of It All


“Who has
 measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?”- Isaiah 40:12

 

If you are a human being reading this, then you are a part of the “I like things to make sense” Club. We ALL are that way. Our hearts rest easy when something is explained to us and we can nod our heads and say “Oh, I understand now!” But the truth is, sometimes things just don’t make sense. That’s when fear and anxiety can rule the day.

 

In a world that doesn’t make sense, it’s imperative for us to cling to the One who does make sense- to let our loving God be our peace. Yes, in a way, one may think God doesn’t make sense either. But God, being well aware of the gap between Himself and His finest creation- mankind, sent His Son Jesus as a mediator to bridge the gap. Amazing.

 

There is so much “talk” these days. People trying to make sense of it all. That’s what fear does. It provokes us to try and figure things out- to take control. The truth is, God’s ways are “inscrutable.” If you know what that word means, you read way too much! It means “doesn’t make sense.” Put a different way, God’s ways don’t fit into our logical, objective mind. 

 

Example: the COVID virus. There are so many different opinions about it all. “The virus is a hoax! Everyone is dying! 95% of people who get the virus have already been vaccinated.”  It’s hard to know what to believe.

 

When I played football and soccer and the coach saw us struggling on the field, he used a marvelous tool called a “time out.” The coach would motion to the referee, and he would stop play. We would all come over to the coach and he would refocus us back to the game plan. And guess what? We played better after the time out (usually). 

 

We need to remember the importance of “time outs” in life. We need time to refocus back on God. We need time to remember just how big He really is. That’s one of the purposes of the Bible- God’s Word. It’s a beautiful narrative to remind us of just how big He really is. 

 

It’s the story of His creation. 

Job 38

 

It’s the story of the size of Heaven

Isaiah 40:12

 

Scientists say it would take eighty thousand years to get from one end of the Universe to the other.

 

Scientists say it would take ten million years to get to the farthest we can see.

 

Astronomers say the average galaxy has one hundred stars and that there are one hundred billion galaxies

 

Oceanographers say our oceans contain three hundred and forty quintillion gallons of water, yet God holds them in the hollow of His hands (Isaiah 40:12)

 

Geologists say the Earth weighs six sextillion metric tons, yet to God it is dust on a scale (Isaiah 40:12,15)

 

Scientists tell us the known universe stretches more than thirty billion light years (two hundred sextillion miles) yet, to God, the great expanse represents but the breadth of His hand (Isaiah 40:12)

 

Oceanographers say if we drop an anchor in the Pacific Ocean’s Marianna trench, an hour later it will hit the bottom- seven miles down.

 

It goes on and on! God is SO BIG and we are not.

 

When things don’t make sense, realize that God does make sense. His ways are amazing, and we can trust His providence and care. So much of life’s seasons maintain their purpose in the mind of God alone. That precious commodity called trust allows us to rest in the care of our mighty God.

 

Call time out and be reminded that God really is big enough for us.

 

He is truly worthy of our trust…

 

…even when we can’t make sense of it all.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

 

 

  

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Praise or Prayer? Yes


Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” -Matt. 6:9

 

Praise to our awesome God is better “caught than taught.” When we live in praise, we live in the presence of God. And of course, when we live in praise, we live in prayer. Or is it the other way around? Truth is, it’s not either-or. Both beautifully go together when we’re focusing on God.

 

When we praise God without an attitude of prayer, it’s a pretty insulated form of praise. It’s like saying good morning to someone you’re angry with about something. You’re getting the good morning out of the way by saying it from your head, not your heart. It feels logical and sterile. 

 

When we pray to God without a spirit of praise, it’s selfish and caustic. It’s like asking Santa Claus for things. It is usually us coming to God with a grocery list of things we want. We’re not so much asking Him from a spirit of submission, we are telling Him what we want and oh, by the way, we want it now.

 

Being a parent or grandparent trumps any book on parenting. Someone said, “Experience plants deeper and surer than words.”

 

Many times we take our kids or grandkids to an event only to have to deal with their reluctance. “I don’t want to go,” they might say. “Muppet Babies comes on at 3:00 and I’ll miss it if we go out.” We went out anyway, the kids got into it and Muppet Babies was forgotten.

 

Praising God works out the same way. When we get engulfed in worshipping God, our circumstances don’t rule the moment. Our circumstances, SO important at the time, becomes a faint memory. When the majesty and glory of God become the centerpiece of our lives, the other “important” things fall into their lower place. 

 

Like someone said, “We all have ‘re-sources’ and ‘the-sources’.” Prayer and praise are the way we keep our awesome God in His worthy place in our hearts as THE source of contentment and peace in our lives. Then, we’re able to give healthy time to the other important resources in our lives: family, friends, finances, future, etc..

 

When what should be “re-sources” become “the-sources”, we create a problem. If I leave out everyday praise to God and rarely pray to Him, then these other things can become THE priority.  Suddenly, (though the process is typically gradual) finances, for instance,  can become the center of me, my marriage and my life. THE source of purpose and significance for me is based upon how much money I have. There is certainly nothing wrong with money. But when it becomes my source of peace and contentment, I’m pretty much sunk. Like someone said, “How much money is enough? A little bit more.”  Money is never a fair source of peace. Neither is anything other than God.

 

But God is and always will be The True Source.  And prayer and praise are the main “tools” that our loving Father has given to us to keep the connection pure and true. Like the loving mom and dad who gave their college bound seventeen-year-old her cell phone so she will “stay in touch,” our loving God gives us prayer and praise to keep the link fresh and strong between Him and His beloved children. 

 

May we all keep that “cell phone” charged and available in our walk with God. May we stay established in the intimacy of our relationship with our loving Lord as we praise His name and remain in prayer. 

 

It’s all provided by Him for one reason: He loves us. May we walk in His love every minute of every hour of every day, Muppet Babies or not!

 

By Eric Joseph Staples

www.lifeaid101.com

 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Uncertain Times


“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So, we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” -Psalm 46:1

I heard someone comment on TV the other day that we are “certainly living in uncertain times.” I thought to myself, “When were times certain?” The truth is that times have always been uncertain. And, another truth is, God has always been absolutely certain. 

 

Uncertainty and difficulty have always been a part of the world we live in: World Wars (a couple of them), countless Civil Wars across the world, economic difficulties, natural disasters, unnatural disasters (Chernobyl, etc.). An article I read listed almost 200 pandemics and epidemics that have hit mankind over the past thousand years. 

 

Franklin P. Adams said, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.” We tend to remember the good and forget the bad (and sometimes we do the opposite: we remember the bad and forget the good). My dear dad, born in 1919, used to always say, “When anyone starts to tell you about how great the ‘good ole days’ were, don’t you believe them. Those days were hard and difficult, but the days were good.” As he used to share, those times were good, not because of the lack of difficulty, but because of abundance of faith and family. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” One thing is for sure, if we’re looking to “uncertain times” to be our bedrock, then the shifting sand will be our downfall.

 

Trust is a huge concept. When nothing makes sense, our trust is in the awesome God of the Universe. Sure, when we win the lottery, we’re quick to give God the credit as we cash in our winnings. But when things just don’t make sense, it’s much harder to believe and trust. The famous French priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, said, “Give our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

 

Trusting God doesn’t mean we don’t have anxiety, suspense, and confusion. Too often we beat ourselves up for being human. Be honest with yourself and God. Jesus Himself was “distressed to the point of death” in the Garden, but he never lost trust in the Father. And as He went to His Father, God assured Him that all was well and His peace followed.

 

If you’ve already been having a lack of faith in God, know that you can change your course anytime. Heed C.S. Lewis’s advice, “You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”  True faith is believing even when things don’t make sense. Sure, the Coronavirus is slowly fading away, but rest assured, something else will take its place. It always has and always will.  

 

May the “uncertain times” always drive us toward the only certainty that exists: the presence of the Almighty God of the Universe. Even for Jesus, the difficulty of his “cup” took Him to the garden. Of course, it wasn’t the garden that helped Him, it was the presence of the Father in the garden that brought Him assurance and strength. Louisa May Alcott said, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” We’re sailing well when we run to the garden as uncertainty moves in. 

 

The times will always be uncertain, and God will always be certain. 

 

May we always run to Him.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Are You Exhausted Spiritually?


“The everlasting God…neither faints nor is weary” -Isa. 40:28

 What a challenging year of ups and downs, like many of us haven’t seen in years (or a lifetime). The Coronavirus, record setting winter weather, upheaval in Washington- the list goes on and on. Someone once said, “The greatest evidence of the good ole days is a bad memory”. Times have always been hard (and in a way, always easy). Regardless, many of us are just plain “pooped” from the load of this past year. But there are healthy directions for us to go and there are words of hope!

 

Like I do occasionally, I’m going to let one of my heroes, Oswald Chambers, say it much better than I ever could. May the Lord bless his words to you.

 

From “My Utmost for His Highest,” Feb. 9th:

 

“Exhaustion means that our vital energies are completely worn out and spent. Spiritual exhaustion is never the result of sin, but of service. Whether or not you experience exhaustion will depend on where you get your supplies. Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep,” but He gave him nothing with which to feed them (John 21:17). The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other people’s souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you completely- to the very last drop. But be careful to replenish your supply, or you will quickly be utterly exhausted. Until others learn to draw on the life of the Lord directly, they will have to draw on His life through you. You must literally be their source of supply, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. We owe it to God to be our best for His lambs and sheep, as well as for Him. 

 

Have you delivered yourself over to exhaustion because of the way you have been serving God? If so, then renew and rekindle your desires and affections. Examine your reasons for service. Is your source based on your own understanding or is it grounded on the redemption of Jesus Christ? Continually look back to the foundation of your love and affection and remember where your Source of power lies. You have no right to complain, “O Lord, I am so exhausted.” He saved and sanctified you to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that He is your supply. “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7)

 

Jesus Christ reveals, not an embarrassed God, not a confused God, not a God who stands apart from the problems, but One who stands in the thick of this whole thing with man.”

 

Wow. Great words from Oswald. The better focus from us all is purifying our “source of supply”. The options are to depend on me and my own “devices” or to stay linked and dependent on my Lord Jesus Christ.

 

It’s amazing the “devices” that we have come up with to cope and numb the difficulty around us. There four versions of devices are most paramount: protection, dissociation, self-medication, and denial. 

 

1. Projection. Projection is a defensive behavior that protects us by attaching unacceptable feelings, or motives, to someone else (e.g., “You are the selfish one, not me.”)

 

2. Dissociation. Dissociation is the inability to articulate certain aspects of one’s own experience in verbal language. We keep unacceptable feelings out of awareness. One might say, “this is not happening to me.” The unconscious motive for dissociation is to escape from the overwhelming emotions associated with the traumatic memory. Healing requires one to come into contact with the previously inaccessible aspects of these inner feelings. The way out of trauma is by going through it (Epstein, 1994).

 

3. Self-medication. Addiction may be described as a defensive strategy to avoid feelings of helplessness to powerlessness (Ulman and Paul, 2006). The person tries to compensate with addictive behavior for painful subjective states of low self-esteem, doubts, and anxiety. The use of drugs provides a feeling of acceptance and a feeling of temporary self-confidence. However, addiction also prevents the user from understanding his distress and developing the emotional capacity to self-care. 

 

4. Denial. The term denial (or repression) can be defined as the selective ignoring of information. Denial can be a protective defense in the face of unbearable news, such as a cancer diagnosis, to create a false sense of security. Denial is a form of self-deception that detaches an individual from reality. To maintain a positive view of themselves, people revise their beliefs in the face of new evidence of good news but ignore bad news. For instance, alcoholics insist they have no drinking problem. Addiction can be a source of terrible shame, self-hatred, and low self-worth. Indeed, the first step of A.A. is to admit that you have a problem and begin to seek help. 

 

Staying linked and dependent on our Lord Jesus Christ means we are guarding and cultivating our relationship with Him. It means we are keeping Jesus “literally our source of supply, taking our nourishment from God.”

 

When the snow was blowing and the temperature plummeted, as the Virus was spreading and Washington reeled in disharmony, we were weary (no denial here!). But our source remained the same- our Lord Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus was “distressed to the point of death” in the garden (Mark 14:34) but He never lost His focus on the Father. He understands where we are.

 

NOW, as the snow is changing to Spring showers, temperatures are warming up, virus cases are dropping and Washington is settling down, we actually face our biggest challenge! Sometimes better circumstances can disconnect us from our Godly “source of supply” even more. It’s subtle but can be equally as damaging to our soul. 

 

Paul challenged us in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means, but I also know how to live in prosperity. I’ve learned the secret of being filled and going hungry- both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

 

May we be content and at peace in Him no matter the circumstances- up or down. May we stay tapped into our Lord Jesus Christ as our Source always.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

Friday, January 22, 2021

To the Father or Fear


“Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” -Phil. 4:7 (The Message)


Fear is…weird. There is no sin in the fear, but what we do after it hits us makes all the difference. We all have emotional “buttons” in our soul that get pressed by a variety of circumstances. And the circumstances over the past eleven months have pressed away! What we do after the “pressing” makes all the difference.

First off, it’s not wrong to have buttons that get pressed. As long as we have a pulse, we’re going to have particular triggers in our psyche that get triggered. Yes, in the absence of fear there is faith. But faith is found in the process. The Gospels remind us that “Jesus began to be greatly distressed and troubled” in the garden before His crucifixion. He even said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:33-34).

Jesus experienced stress and anxiety? Yes, but they were but a springboard to take Him to His Father. His journey to the cross was so difficult but freedom came when He surrendered Himself to His awesome Father-God.

That’s where we get tripped up. Often, we don’t run to the Father first. Perhaps that’s part of God’s providential purpose in difficulty and trial. As Oswald Chambers wrote, “God engineer’s circumstances to bring us closer to Him.”

The truth is, difficulty, trial and fear either bring us closer to God or drive us away from God. We fear what we don’t understand; we fear what we can’t control; we fear unplanned surprises.

It comes down to this question: When (not if) I experience fear, where do I run? Where do I go? “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline.” This verse means we have to discipline ourselves not to meditate on thoughts that increase fear. It means we meditate on the Word of God.

That’s why Jesus never sinned even though He experienced anxiety and stress. He went straight to His Father with it. Even in His humanity He cried out to the Father. After all, there was nowhere else to go.

Unfortunately, sin crept into the fabric of mankind and has provided all kinds of places for us to go. They are tidy, logical places to run to, but none fill the void of purpose and safety.

We run to:

Information: watch the news! No surprises if I’m up to date
Money: the crisis may hit, but the more cash I have, the more secure I feel
Seclusion: if I get away from people and their opinions, I’ll feel better
Exercise: if I’m in perfect shape, then I’ll never get sick

There are many other places we run to, but all are empty, because none are truly secure.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being in shape and watching the news, but when those things become “THE source” instead of a “RE source”, then we’re in trouble. None of those resources ultimately fill the gap.

That’s why David reminds us that our loving God is the only truly helpful place to run and seek peace. “For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent” (Psalm 27:5).

There are no guarantees that God will deliver us out of the difficulty, but He does promise He’ll grant us peace in the midst of the difficulty.

So, buckle your seatbelt and be aware when your triggers get pushed. When they do (and they will), call time-out. Re-create the “Jesus in the garden” experience in your soul and take it to the Father. (Mark 14:32-42). As happened to Jesus, the Father met Him there and Jesus intimately connected with Him. He took some of the disciples with Him and they fell asleep (bless their hearts). It’s a subtle reminder that as important as people are to us, they are never the ultimate answer.

As difficulty and fear fill the air, run, not walk, to our awesome God. Like Jesus, the gift of prayer is our connection to Him.

May we be driven closer to Him…

…as we rest in His care.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©
www.lifeaid101.com





Friday, January 1, 2021

Hindsight is 2020


“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” -Phil. 3:13-14

 

Wow! Here we are: New Year’s 2021 and most of us aren’t even sure what day it is! 

This past year has been interesting, to say the least, but the truth is, every year is “interesting.” Someone said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” Life has always and will always have difficulties and trials, but how we let go and move forward through them makes all the difference. 

 

The church in Paul’s time was much like the church today: a crazy mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds, races, creeds and nationalities. God delights in the unity of varieties of people who surrender their lives and confess their loyalty to Him.

 

The church at Philippi was the first Christian church in Europe, planted by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey around AD 50 or 51. The initial converts of the church at Philippi were Gentiles, and the congregation developed into a predominately Gentile fellowship. Women also played an essential role in the life of the church at Philippi. 

 

Like every church, the Philippian church consisted of Jews and Gentiles, men and moment, people trying to move on and live in the freedom of Christ. Times were hard in the New Testament world. Multiple empires claimed control, wars ravaged the land and epidemics took many lives. 

 

Paul knew that for these young churches to survive difficult times, they would have to embrace the moment, cling to Christ and stay focused on the call of God.

 

“…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…”. It would appear that Paul wasn’t good at math, as he said he did “one thing” but then listed two things. But he actually wrote it correctly. His point was that “forgetting” and “reaching” are meant to be “one thing.”

 

If we focus too much on “forgetting” without “reaching,” we can actually get sucked into focusing too much on the past. Like someone said, “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.” Healthy “forgetting” isn’t stuffing or repressing past events and choices but processing through past issues and in a healthy way, filing them away and letting go. Not literally forgetting, but “putting them away” by giving them over, in trust, to a loving God.

 

If we focus too much on “reaching” without “forgetting” we drag our past into the future, and it can cloud up our new plans. “Reaching forward” is the act of replacing “what was” with “what will be.” It means we’re taking steps forward to let go of the past, forgive ourselves and others, and move in a positive direction. 

 

The “goal for the prize” is for us to “let go and let God.” True, now that we’re in 2021, hindsight IS literally 2020. But our goal is to avoid living life in the rear-view mirror. The “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is being “present” with God today. It is being with God NOW. 

 

And being in that presence with God always produces peace and contentment and purpose. God is the Rock that we can lean on. He becomes the strong tower that we can run to and be safe. 

 

Of course, we need to “pray without ceasing” to stay present with God. Even as the current Pandemic fades into the past, there will always be other “challenges” on this side of heaven. May we all avoid living in hindsight…

 

…but live in foresight, in the presence of our loving, wonderful and strong God.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Waiting Room


“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you” - 
Is. 43:2

One of the truths of this life is that we’re always waiting for something. We gain false confidence when we feel like we have nothing to wait for. “I have it all under control”, we think. Then, the waiting for something always begins.

 

Oh boy! Am I disqualified to write about this or what? Being the youngest of four brothers, I grew up selfish and entitled and spoiled. I don’t have a self-image problem- it’s just the truth. I’ve never liked to wait!

 

Thankfully, many years of walking with the Lord Jesus have helped develop some confidence and security. But I’m still “under construction” for sure. 

 

Think about it. We wait for our next appointment. We wait for that phone call. We wait for tables at restaurants (and some wait tables). We wait for that package to arrive. 

 

Waiting is just hard! And “waiting rooms” don’t help much. A typical waiting room has outdated furniture, old magazines and screaming kids. Some appointments are tougher than others. 

 

What we’re waiting for is something we feel we need…something that will bring peace to our hearts. But it’s rarely a peace that lasts. 

 

We wait for the huge game Friday night and we win! There. The wait is over? Nope. There is a game next Friday. Suddenly, the game we won is a faint memory. 

 

Waiting becomes a problem when our peace lies on the other side of the waiting. 

 

But there can be peace IN the waiting.

 

Someone said, “Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

 

We’re waiting well when our peace and contentment aren’t dependent on what’s going on around us. It’s what Paul wrote in his Philippian letter in Chapter 4 verses 11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things 1through Him who strengthens me.” 

 

The Pandemic is getting so old. Like you, I’m tired of masks, cancellations and sickness. But true peace won’t come with a vaccine or cure. There will most certainly be another “disaster” around the corner. In “Lady A’s” song “I Run to You”, they sing these words: “This world keeps spinning faster into a new disaster, so I run to you.” We need to run to the One who can bring true peace and contentment to our hearts. God alone, through Jesus Christ, brings a peace that most certainly surpasses all understanding. That is the place we need to run to-not consider or walk to, but run to!

 

Because God is such a phenomenal Father, He knows that the best way to grow us up is to orchestrate circumstances in our lives that will produce faith and trust. He knows we’re at our best when we’re on our knees depending on Him. So, He’ll engineer circumstances for us to “wait”.

 

As we’re sitting in the squeaky waiting room chair today, may we run to our loving God. Don’t let the crazy circumstances get inside of you. Fight for that space and let it be filled with the peace and security of our loving God and Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

May we set our minds on things above. If we get weighed down, may we run to Him and empty ourselves into the care of our loving God. 

 

May the God of Peace be the ruler of our lives today…

 

…as we’re waiting in the waiting room.

 

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

www.lifeaid101.com