Monday, April 23, 2012

Extra time

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” -Eph. 5:15,16
Time is a strange thing. In some situations, time seems to move slowly, like sitting in a dentist’s chair. In others situations, time goes by quickly, like being with family. But the truth is, time never changes. There are always 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour. But how we use that time makes all the difference. And how we teach our kids to use time affects the quality of their lives. We just returned from a wonderful weekend in Columbia Missouri with Elizabeth, Mark, and our beautiful granddaughter, Reese. We celebrated her 2nd birthday on Friday and Jeanie’s birthday on Saturday. Upon returning home, I took the mail out of the mailbox and there was a box with my repaired watch in it. I quickly put on the watch and continued unpacking the car. It took a while to put everything away. I glanced at the watch and noticed it was already 10:00 and about bedtime (I know, I’m getting old). Then, a strange thing happened…. I was checking a message on my iPhone and noticed a time difference. My watch was set an hour off. It was 9:00, not 10:00. The repairman hadn’t set the time to my time zone. I had gained an hour! I had extra time. I had been given a free extra hour. Hezekiah, the 14th king of Judah, was also given some extra time. II Kings 20 records God’s granting him 15 extra years of life after Hezekiah fell deathly ill. Hezekiah prayed for the Lord’s mercy and God granted the Godly king his request. What did Hezekiah do with his extra years? He fathered Manasseh, who would rule after him. Manasseh would be an evil king (perhaps God knew that initially?) but God would use it all for His plan. My former boss and mentor, Richard Beach, passed away a few years ago after 16 years of life with inoperable, terminal cancer. He had been branded as “dying” back in the 90’s but was granted 16 more years to live life. What did he do with his extra time? He used it to the fullest! I heard Richard say once, “I bet the people on the Titanic wished they’d had another piece of dessert after dinner that night.” He enjoyed life to the max. He continued to stay in the middle of it all, discipling and caring for brothers and sisters in the Lord and overseeing the operations of Doulos ministries. The question looms every hour of every day, “What are we doing with our time?” We can make the most of every minute we’re given or we can waste the precious gift of time that God has granted. Though we view Hezekiah and Richard as being given “extra” time, none of us know how much time we have left. Time is a gift and we should treat it as such. I read the other day, “We should look at our lives as a shiny new penny. We can spend it any way we wish, but we can only spend it once. And we cannot spend half a penny- it’s an all-or-nothing transaction. Talk to God about how you will invest your remaining years of life in His service.” Life goes by so quickly…minute after minute. How we choose to use those minutes determines the worth of our lifetime. We need to teach our families to savor every second. And to enjoy that extra dessert. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Genie in a Bottle

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel…”- Romans 1:16

I just had a friend return from a Mission trip to a foreign land. He and the team had a phenomenal time sharing their faith with a needy people. Mission trips are awesome opportunities for us to “go.” But so many of us return from these trips only to retreat back into our “private” faith. Kind of like a Genie in a bottle, our faith retreats back into the bottle of our souls, virtually worthless to those around us. Someone once said, “Faith isn't faith unless we’re willing to give it away.” In other words, if it’s genuine faith, we aren't ashamed to share it.

It seems we’re a lot more comfortable sharing our faith with people we don't know in a land where we don't live. But we’re the most effective in familiar surroundings around those with whom we’ve built a relationship. Why are we hesitant to share our faith with our families and in our neighborhoods? Why don't we share with those we know the best?

Those we know well have seen our worst. When we’re with strangers, they know nothing of our faults. But our families know full well that we have “feet of clay.” They know our past. Many times, we conclude that our faith is disqualified because of our past mistakes. Though He was sinless, Jesus struggled with His family too.

It’s interesting that when Jesus left home to begin His ministry, His family apparently didn't like the idea. According to Mark 3:21, they said He was “out of His mind,” and some of them tried to “take charge of Him” and bring Him home. Matthew 12: 46-50 indicates that He refused to talk to His mother and brothers when they tracked Him down and tried to see him. And John 7:5 says, “Even His own brothers did not believe Him.”

The gospels don't say how long the rift with the family lasted. But there must have been reconciliation at some point, because Acts 1:14 says that Mary and all four brothers later joined the disciples in the Upper room after Jesus departed. These brothers were unbelievers six months earlier, but now believed.

Jesus was seemingly tough on His loved ones because He knew that His mission was even more important than pleasing His family.

If we base our faith on a popularity contest, we lose every time. Paul said in Galatians 1:10 that we can't be people-pleasers and God-pleasers at the same time. When we want everyone to like us, our faith goes back in the bottle and the cork is pushed in tightly. Of course, we’re called to love everyone. So sharing our faith isn't an excuse to be rude. But Jesus certainly wasn’t rude. He was just focused. He was convicted. He was dependent on His Father.

And that’s what threatens people the most about our faith. Most people don't have any conviction. So, when you share your faith, it naturally bothers them. You are reminding them that they have a void in their hearts that only Jesus can fill. That’s why the Tim Tebow’s and Bubba Watson’s are given a hard time.

So, have an absolute blast on the Mission trips, but keep on “going” when you come hme. Keep that Genie called faith out of the bottle. Be kind and respectful, but keep sharing your faith with your neighbors and family.

Who knows? In six months, they may become your brothers and sisters in the faith.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter tweet

“So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken”-John 2:22

I’ll have to admit that I’m a little out of touch with a lot of today’s technology. I know how to send and receive emails and I do have a Facebook page, but other technologies like Twitter are confusing to me. Those type technologies seem to report nonsensical facts like, “I’m having meatloaf for dinner” or “I’m going to bed in ten minutes.” I wonder if someone would have tweeted events a couple of thousand years ago? I wonder how Jesus’ resurrection would have been reported?

I’ve read several articles about the psychology behind today’s social media. People today are in need of community like never before. The vehicles for connection have changed drastically. Town square meetings and Friday night socials are no longer valid in our fast paced, transitional society, so people are connecting through vehicles like Facebook and Twitter.

The quality of these connections is questionable, but the motives are certain: people have important news they need to share with each other. It’s the same as a written letter in the 1880’s or a phone call to family in the 1930’s…our lives are validated by connection with those whom we love. Though us sharing about our favorite team winning a game may seem pointless, we want others to know. We want others to share life with us. In this fragmented and splintered world, we need connection.

Every generation has needed this connection. It all started back in the first few chapters of Genesis. Before the Fall, God looked at man and saw that it wasn’t good for him to be alone. Yes, he solved the problem through creating the concept of marriage (between a man and a woman, by the way) but the need went deeper. Though God is the only “all in all” for mankind, we need people too. It’s why we need the connection to others. And it’s why we need to share with one another.

Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection multiple times. But most people, especially the disciples, didn't grasp the reality of what would happen. When Jesus died on the cross, they freaked out- not just Peter, but all the disciples. They’d forgotten about the plans of Jesus.

Three days later, the disciples remembered. Remembering is so important because recalling the works of God is always a lesson in faithfulness. Why? Because He is always faithful. He never forgets and He never comes up short. Yes, Jesus died, but three days later he rose from the dead and the disciples remembered all He had said. And the twittering began.

If the technology had existed, the disciples would have shared with everyone they knew about the resurrection of their Master, Teacher and Savior. Their sorrow of their leader’s demise would have quickly been replaced by the exciting reminder, “As you may have heard, Jesus died on the Cross, but what you may not have heard yet is JESUS IS ALIVE!” The disciples just had to share the news.

Of course, the reality of the life of Jesus is just as valid today as it was back then, but I suspect most tweeting this Easter will be about the presidential primaries or the beginning of baseball season.

This Easter, may we all share in the reality of the wonderful life of Jesus. Let the Tweets and the Facebook pages be filled with the joy of His resurrection.

That’s a tweet worth reading.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, April 1, 2012


“By their own devices they will fall, for they are rebellious against You” -Psa. 5:10

There must be more devices on the face of earth today than there have ever been in the history of mankind! There are medical gadgets to relieve just about every ailment, communication gadgets to help us connect to just about anyone, and there are even gadgets to help the gadgets work better.

But there are other devices that are not electronic or mechanical. They are the devices that we have set up in our souls to navigate through this thing called life. They are substitutes for God that we use to bring meaning and purpose to our lives. And as convinced as we are that they work, they malfunction every time. Be warned that device use begins early. It’s seems the longer a person uses a particular gadget, the less willing he is to give it up.

The toolbox of these devices is varied and creative:

Money. There is nothing wrong with money, but the “love” of money is a problem. When we fall in love with the gadget called money, we’re signing up for frustration every time. Whether we have a lot or not enough, it’s like trying to grab water. It’s illusive and never ends. “How much money is enough? A little bit more.”

Health. Like money, being healthy is a good thing. We need to keep ourselves fit. But when being healthy becomes our purpose in life, it’s an ineffective device. Why? Because, in the end, this “earth suit” we’re wearing around wears out. Our health is fragile, unpredictable and temporary. I was in a running store today. You know, those stores dedicated solely to the sport of running? On the rack were a zillion different types of running shoes alone. I remember when I was in high school there were just a couple of choices. Why? People are worshipping their bodies these days. Again, running is a blast (I try to run a few miles everyday). But if running because my purpose in life, I’m in trouble.

Sports. This is a weird one because sports are awesome and teach great value lessons. But again, when sports become a substitute for God, then it’s a problem. History records that towards the end of the great Roman Empire, sport became an obsession for the Romans. Sports were a great distraction away from the devalued and degradated society. Sound familiar? In case you’re wondering, check out the channel menu on your cable. There are at least 10 sports channels available 24-7. Again, nothing wrong with sports, but when it becomes our device to live life, we’re in trouble.

Performance. Most of our society is holding this device in their hands right now. Most people look for their significance and purpose through what they do. When asked, “What do you do?” Most people respond with their job title. Very few people respond with, “Oh, I’m a dad, a friend, a husband, and, oh yeah, I work at the business.” Why? Because we define ourselves by our profession. When our gadget for life is our job, we set ourselves up for a performance-oriented frustration. The god called work leads most to a daily grind that doesn't satisfy.

But there’s another gadget called God. Of course He’s much more than a device- He is the almighty and everlasting God of the universe. It’s why the Psalmist implied that being rebellious against God leads to faulty devices. God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the only true meaning in life. A relationship with God brings the foundation and meaning that every God-created human desires.

So, use that smart phone and keep exercising, but don't let those devices run your life. Keep them all in their place and let God be your God.

You’ll find it’s a device that never loses power!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©