Sunday, October 9, 2016


“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©

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 ©

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©

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Crazy Elections, Part One

“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” –Romans 13:1 The American political system is crazy! The irony is that craziness is what makes America remarkable and beautiful as well. Freedom allows us to navigate and sift through the mess of people who desire to run this country. As Christ followers, we need to remember that our peace and security don't lie in our elected officials. Our strength comes from the Lord. And, lest we think that there was more security there in the past, let me remind you of a few nutty elections. Arguably, the top four craziest elections in American history didn’t even occur in our lifetime. Here it goes… #4 Year: 1824 Candidates: Jackson vs Adams vs Clay vs Crawford There were 4 candidates running for president. Jackson won the popular vote, 41% and more of the electoral votes, but not enough to win the election. Via the 12th amendment, the top three candidates went to the House of Representatives, which left out Clay. The vote was so close that it went to the speaker of the house to break the tie. Clay was the speaker of the House and hated Jackson, so he broke the tie and voted for Adams. Winner: Adams. #3 Year: 1828 Candidates: Andrew Jackson vs John Quincy Adams As you just read, Jackson had lost to Adams in 1824. Henry Clay, speaker of the house, cast the tie-breaking vote. Adams then appointed Clay as Sec. of State. Jackson was furious. Adams was accused of giving a prostitute to a Russian Czar. Jackson’s wife was called an adulteress because she married Jackson before finalizing her divorce from her previous husband. Jackson’s wife, Rachel, died before the inauguration, and at the funeral Jackson blamed his opponents for her death. At the White House Inauguration party, mass confusion infused. (Imagine having CNN to cover all of this!) Winner: Jackson #2 Year: 1860 Candidates: Lincoln/Douglas in the north vs Breckenridge/Douglas/Bell on the south In the 1850’s, the country was about to explode. In the 1856 election, the South threatened secession if a republican won the election, so the country elected Buchanan. By 1860, the country was weakening and the people blamed Buchanan. The country was so divided that the southern states didn’t even have Lincoln on the ballot. But Lincoln won the election and a month later South Carolina voted to leave the Union. Eventually, 12 other states would follow and the disaster called the Civil War followed. Winner: Lincoln #1 Year: 1912 Candidates: Wilson vs Taft vs Roosevelt The Republican’s picked Taft, the sitting president, over Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt, furious, walked out of the convention and ran as a third party candidate. It split the party and Wilson won the election Winner: Wilson The list goes on and on. There have been 56 presidential elections and they have all been a mess! But our awesome God has shown grace and favor to our country and we continue to be the beacon of liberty across the world. May we all continue to pray for our leaders and be obedient Christ followers as we honor this country. And may God shed His grace on this wonderful place we call the United States of America. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


“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 ©

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 ©

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 ©