Sunday, March 25, 2012
“Go therefore and make disciples…” –Matt. 28:19
There’s a lot of talk these days about Mission trips. They sound kind of fun, but truth is, going is always difficult.
The last time I checked, the word “go” was a verb. It’s not a noun naming something. It’s not an adjective describing something. It’s not a number counting something. It’s a verb. It’s an action word. Webster defines “go” as “the ability to move, follow a course, to leave, to depart, to move from one place to another.” Like a baseball homerun hit out of the ballpark, when we go we’re gone.
But it’s so easy to cozy up to our familiar surroundings. We know where the food is in our frig, we know how to operate the remote on our TV, and we know how to operate the thermostat in our hallway. It’s familiar and predictable. That’s why when we’re prompted to move it can be so difficult. It’s why most people just choose to stay. But God often says “GO” in capital letters. Even though we know Mission trips are awesome, it’s difficult to move. Sometimes the going is across the street and sometimes the going is across the seas.
The word “go” is used 1324 times in the Bible (feel free to count them!). Every time it’s used, it’s all about (you guessed it) going. Did you know that being called by God always involves going? I have to move from a place of comfort to a place of calling. Sometimes the “going” involves moving us geographically and other times the “going” involves moving us in our spirit. God has “moved me on” several times without leaving my current ministry. Other times He has asked me to “go and grow.” He has asked me to change a perspective. He has asked me to renew a relationship. He has asked me to refine a mission. They all involve “going.”
Scripture is sprinkled with stories of people going (or not going). Here are 3 examples:
1. Jesus challenged Ananias in Acts 9:15 to “go” [por-a-oh-my] “Go on your way” and love on a blinded Paul. He was hesitant, but his apprehension of Paul was turned to love because of the Lord’s directive. God always sees potential—not what is, but what could be.
2. Jesus had just healed a man who was tormented by demons in Mark 5:1 (also, Lk 8:26, Matt. 8:28). This man was excited to go with Jesus. Jesus said to “go” [por-a-oh-my] to his hometown. So the man obeyed, went where “he stayed” and the people marveled.
3. Jesus, in His last words to the disciples in Matt. 28:19, told the disciples to “go” [epi-care-eo] “set at liberty.” Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me. Lean on me for your liberty.” Jesus said, “Go and make disciples, baptize, teach and lean on Me.”
Are you ready to “go?” Staying is never a good choice. When we stay, we grow stagnant. When we stay, we lose purpose. When we stay, we grow anxious. Remember, this isn't about geography. I know people that move every few years looking for a purpose. They are moving but not going. It begins right now where I’m planted.
Pray to the Lord that He will move you and your family. If you stand still, then He can’t take you anywhere. Let Him teach you and encourage you and fill you. It may get a little uncomfortable because moving is never easy.
And as you “go,” don't forget to enjoy the journey and let the Spirit “move” you.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” -Prov. 16:9
Spring officially started today, March 20th, at 1:14am. On the first day of spring—the vernal equinox—day and night are each approximately 12 hours long (with the actual time of equal day and night, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring a few days before the vernal equinox). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going northward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. And the temperature slowly rises.
Back in October, the Weather Channel and all the weathermen (oops- weather-people) were predicting a cold and snowy winter season for the mid-west. Salt and snow shovels were put out for sale at Lowe’s and Home Depot. Everyone with fireplaces and furnaces purchased wood by the cord. People checked their antifreeze and some even switched to snow tires. We all prepared for a long, cold winter. But the winter of 2011 was the season that never came. All across the U.S., average temperatures were at record highs. In truth, we spent tons of time preparing for what never happened. It’s certainly wise to plan ahead, but we need to be careful of missing the joy of the present by worrying and planning too much about the future.
Life (and kids) can be so unpredictable. We make our plans, we have our expectations, and then our kids surprise us. We make all the preparations for the season we think is coming, then spring shows up instead of winter, and we’re disappointed.
The truth is, we’d rather have spring. But the joy of the season can easily be squelched by the change. Most people don't like change (me included). But God loves change. It’s in the fabric of His nature. And we should rejoice that He’s into change because we’d all be lost if He hadn't developed an alternative (Jesus) to His original plan that we messed up (sin).
We love spring- the new growth, the warm weather, the bird’s singing- but if we’re not careful, we’ll miss that season too. Spring is not winter, but it does have something in common with winter- it ends. Every season eventually gives way to the next season. It’s tempting to focus so much on the season to come that we miss the joy of season we’re in.
In the Bible, we’re challenged to be ready “in season and out of season.” In other words, don't have “seasonal dependence.” Depend on God and his unchanging nature and the season won't matter as much. As our kids figure out the course for their lives (and those seasons can change daily), our challenge is to stay focused on Jesus as our Strong Tower. Proverbs 18:10 says we’re to “run into it.”
The Tower called God is a great place to be safe from the storms. Or the snowfall. Or the hail.
It all depends on the season.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, March 16, 2012
“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you” –Psalm 55:22
Pressure seems to bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Just watch a few basketball games this weekend (and there will be plenty)! Put yourself on that foul line with all the distractions. I’m not sure I could breathe much less sink a free throw! But for some, the pressure makes them play better. For others (me), the pressure definitely decreases the pleasure. Pressure is a part of life and how we teach our kids how to deal with it will affect them the rest of their lives.
The aftermath of the Leap year Branson tornado has a lot of people talking about what tornadoes are and how they work. I am an avid watcher of the Weather Channel. Jeanie will often quiz me, “Why are you watching the forecast again? You just watched it!” She’s right. But I can't seem to get enough of it. I’ve heard people say that the best thing to do when a tornado is headed toward your house is to open all the windows and doors. The logic is that when the low pressure created by the tornado meets the high pressure inside in the house, the house will explode. They say, opening the windows lowers the pressure. Video footage of tornadoes hitting houses seems to support that theory.
There’s only one problem. That theory isn't true.
The air pressure differential between the inside of your home and inside of a tornado is not that great. The Texas Tech’s Institute for Disaster Research conducted several experiments and concluded that the pressure drop found inside a tornado with winds speeds of 260 mph (just shy of an F5 tornado) was only about 10%. That’s about 1.4 pounds per square inch, which really isn’t that much. Most well built houses and buildings can vent this great a pressure change with no ill affects on the dwelling, even if all the windows and doors are closed. There are attic openings, chimneys, furnace vents, and other small openings underneath doors and closed windows for which the air can escape. It’s not the pressure differential that destroys a house when a tornado hits, even though it may look like the house is exploding.
Here’s the irony. When all the windows and doors are opened, it allows the tremendous wind speeds and moisture to do even more damage to the house. It seems that a strategy to reduce damage to the structure actually increases the likelihood that damage will occur.
That’s the way it is with pressure. When we encounter pressure-packed life circumstances, the way we respond makes all the difference. Sometimes it seems to make sense to fret, worry and try to control our way through pressure. Kind of like opening those windows, it just makes logical sense to worry. I think we have a warped since of control in out-of-control situations when we worry. But the Bible makes it pretty clear- worrying accomplishes nothing, and it doesn’t “add a single cubit to your life.” And remember mom and dad, little eyes are watching us and remembering how they see us deal with difficulty.
A website on tornado safety says, “There is no evidence that any opening of windows ever helped to hold a roof in place. The best advice is still to forget the windows and get to a shelter.” So, next time difficulties blow your way, how about leaving the windows alone and running to the safety of a loving God that wants to be our shelter. It doesn't mean we’ll sink the free throws, but it does mean we’ll be at peace as we take the shot.
And it does mean we’ll be in the safety of the arms of Jesus, whether the storm hits our house or not.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, March 12, 2012
“A wise wife is from the Lord…”-Prv. 19:14
Our loving God loves surprises. He is into revealing Himself through the unpredictable and the sooner we teach our kids about that mystery of God the better. Of course, we have to grasp that reality ourselves first. For you O.C.D. types like me, there is usually a clash between our organized predictable world and God’s plan. Why? Because He wants us depending on Him more than our to-do list. And His plans are always better. Thirty two years ago, God’s plan proved Himself wise once again.
I had just graduated from Baylor and was unsure of my future. I did know I’d be working at a camp in the Missouri Ozarks for the summer. I showed up for camp and was sitting in the gym watching the girl counselors shuffle in, when in stepped the cutest girl I’d ever seen. But I figured she was out of my league. As the Camp Director introduced her, he explained she’d been on the ‘76 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team, was a National Champion and an All-American. “Done”, I thought, “time to move on to the next girl.”
I was intimidated for sure. I’d pursued relationships before, all which seemed to never work out. But, this cute girl named Jeanie was on my heart. I gave it over to God and pursued her that summer. Long story very short, God worked in her heart too, and the next Spring we were married. Crazy. Unpredictable. But so much like God.
This past week, Jeanie and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. I am easily the most blessed man on the face of the earth. God has gifted us with two wonderful children and an adorable grandchild. Jeanie is simply too good to be true in my life and God has used her in remarkable ways to spur me on.
She has been my believer. During numerous stormy season of my life, she has been there to see me as more than I saw myself. During those seasons, she didn't focus on herself, but focused on me. She reminds me of God’s plan and, though the plan may look impossible, “He would always prove faithful.”
She has been my encourager. When my words to myself are negative, her words are positive. She gives me that extra hug or kiss when I need it the most. She has a timely verse or thought that is exactly the word I need at the moment.
She has been my provider. Yep. I know husbands are supposed to be the wife’s provider and I do bring home most of the money we need, but she provides much more than cash. She provides a home that is secure and safe. She provides a beauty that keeps our home fresh and alive. And she provides a charm that excites me to see her everyday.
She is my sister. Though we’re husband and wife, we are brother and sister in the Lord. We share a mutual faith that brings us before our precious Lord over and over and over. I have grown in my faith because of Jeanie’s example and diligence to know Christ.
And she is my friend. In the end, she is the one I can count on the most to always be there for me. She’s the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” and will never leave my side.
Yep, God loves surprises. And He still surprises me with the gift named Jeanie every morning I awake.
I’ll yield my Dayplanner to that plan any day.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, March 5, 2012
“…and he shall surely live because he took warning…” –Ezek. 3:21
Warnings. What are they? They are signals or signs meant to get our attention. We are warned to slow down before a dangerous curve; we are warned when there are only 2 minutes left in the half of a professional football game; we are warned about the side effects of taking some safe medications. Through the prophets, God repeatedly warned His chosen people about living without Him. Unfortunately there is one common denominator about warnings: they are seldom heeded.
As most of you know, we had some really bad storms pass through Branson a few days ago. The storm hit at 1:00am and one particular cell had an F-2 tornado embedded inside. It did significant damage to businesses, homes and churches right down the main strip of Branson. But no lives were lost in the Branson area, so though traumatic, it didn't involve loss of life.
I can’t tell you how many people have commented that, “I slept through the whole storm” or “I had no idea a storm had hit our town.” Someone even said, “Yeah, I sort of heard the sirens go off, but figured it was probably going to miss us.” They definitely didn't heed the warnings. The sirens blare, but people go back to sleep. The twenty dollar weather radios sit stacked at the hardware stores, prepared to do their job, but worthless as they sit in their boxes.
So, why don't people tend to heed warnings? Why are we content to risk our very lives? I have several theories:
We’re not convinced the warnings apply to us. Most of us secretly feel like we’re invincible. We’re willing to rely on our own capacity to control. And we’re quick to judge others’ lower capacity to stay safe. So, we let others heed the warnings, but we discard the warning as irrelevant to ourselves. Have you read the article about how to stop a tornado? I haven’t read it either because it doesn’t exist. We can predict it but we can't control it. We can only get out of the way.
We’ve been through too many false alarms. We’re convinced that the emergency personnel over react and “pull the trigger” too quickly. So, unless the warning is huge, we don't acknowledge the warning as a problem. After a major event, we’re careful, but as the weeks and months go by, we go back to sleep.
We think we can take cover if it really hits our house. Many people die in storms because they waited too late to seek shelter. Most tornado events only last seconds. There is simply no time once the storm hits. A warning isn't heeded unless it causes action before the predicted event. If we expect to wake up as we hear the storm and have time to take cover, then we really are dreaming.
So, next time there is a storm, please listen for the sirens and heed the warning. Please go buy a weather radio today if you don't have one. You’re risking the very lives of your loved one’s if you don’t.
More importantly, heed the warnings of God in your life. It’s one of the loving roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Jesus follower. He nudges our spirit to deal with or resolve a situation that can cause destruction in our lives. God’s siren blares and too often we keep sleeping. His desire is that we’d wake up and take the action necessary to resolve the issue.
Then, we really can be safe from the storms.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©