Monday, February 25, 2013

Believing in People

"… let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" - Heb. 10:24 Howard Hendricks passed away this past week. Known simply as “Prof,” he directly or indirectly touched millions of lives in the evangelical community and beyond. For more than sixty years Prof served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary, where he taught more than ten thousand students. He also ministered in person in more than eighty countries. Through speaking engagements, radio, tapes, films, the sixteen books he authored and coauthored, countless journal and popular-market articles, his service on numerous boards, and his work as a chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys (1976–1984), his reach was and is worldwide. His legacy, in partnership with Jeanne, his wife of more than sixty-six years, includes four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. I heard him speak at Kanakuk Kamps one summer and he was so inspiring. As I read about his life, I discovered that Howard Hendricks was raised in a broken home. He recalled, “My parents separated when I came along. I split the family”. His father’s mother reared him, and he described himself as a “troublemaker” during his elementary school years, “Probably just ‘acting out’ a lot of insecurities.” “Most likely to end up in prison” was the assessment of his fifth-grade teacher in Philadelphia. Once she even tied him to his seat with a rope and taped his mouth shut. Yet everything changed for that boy when he met his sixth-grade teacher. He introduced himself to Miss Noe, and she told him, “I’ve heard a lot about you. But I don’t believe a word of it.” Those words would change his life. She made him realize for the first time that someone cared. “People are always looking for someone to say, ‘Hey, I believe in you,’” he said. And in his more than sixty years as a professor, he believed in his students. Hundreds of Christian organizations were created as a result of Prof’s ministry to his protégés. In the words of one DTS graduate, “He impacted more lives personally than anyone I’ve ever known.” Prof once said, “I think the reason God has used me is that, by His grace, the Holy Spirit has developed in me an incurable confidence in His ability to transform people.” Prof went beyond communicating what students should do to convincing them that they could. According to a 2003 Dallas Morning News article about him, the combined ministries of just eight of his former students, a veritable Who’s Who of Evangelical Christians, reach close to thirty thousand people in the pews every week. Add radio programs and books to the number, and the audience expands to millions. And all of this came from a "troublemaker." The "Looking Glass Self" model holds that we pretty much see ourselves as we perceive other see us. If other people see us as a "pain," then we tend to see ourselves that way too. Howard Hendricks was not a product of his environment. He was the product of a loving God who used a sixth-grade teacher to inspire him and move him past his difficult upbringing. As parents, we need to remember to build our children's confidence and potential. Our challenge is to keep seeing the best in our kids, even when the coaches and teachers do not. We need to be their best cheerleaders and believers. When the stories are told, "Don't believe a word of it." See the best. Believe the best. And help your child reach their potential. Then, one day, maybe they'll touch lives like the Prof. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Entertaining Angels

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” -Heb. 13:2 We just don't think about angels a whole lot. If we’ve just read “This Present Darkness” or heard a sermon on angels, then we might consider the angel “deal” for a while, but we live in the reality of what we see, not in reality of what is. Paul reminds us in his writings to the Hebrews, that angels exist. Of course, many other scriptures remind us of the existence of angels, but we’re quick to forget. We’re taught at an early age “not to talk to strangers.” We learn that it’s easier and safer to avoid eye contact and walk on by. But Jesus Himself showed kindness and love for the most ordinary and simple people. The Hebrews writer reminds us that each “appointment” with a stranger may be with a messenger of God. Or it may not be an angel. Either way, we’re challenged to love our neighbor. And our attitude toward others is contagious. Our kids mimic what they see in us as parents. Barbara Bush once said, “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.” When your car breaks down (and it will), tell the tow truck operator that you appreciate his business; when you’re driving through Sonic, tell the cashier to have a great day; when you’re driving past a waiting vehicle, let them in; when you’ve been on hold for 5 minutes, greet the operator in a courteous way. It’s easy to be grouchy, but the spirit of God dwelling within us as Christians produces kindness and hospitality. And remember, rarely will the kindness be deserved or earned. The purist form of hospitality is fueled by grace. No obligation, no payback. Just a willingness to pass on what Jesus has passed to us. It’s simply free. Pray for opportunities to show hospitality this week. The needs are huge and people are in need. Give of your time, your money, your position and most importantly, give yourself. Love the person that God places before you. And when you turn around to say goodbye to them, you just might discover that they’re gone. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, February 8, 2013


“Speak the truth in love”- Eph. 4:15 I'm an adjunct professor at College of the Ozarks, a nearby Christian college in Branson area. Though my schedule only permits me a few hours a week to teach there, I love teaching the students at C of O. This semester I'm teaching a course on Social Problems and we're studying some pretty intense subjects. As we review the many "problems" in our society today, the word "tolerance" is often used in our class discussions. I think tolerance is a wonderful thing. We learn from Jesus that accepting those different from ourselves is absolutely at the heart of God’s grace and love. But sometimes, in our quest to be tolerant, we can ourselves become “intolerant” of those men and women that correctly teach of God’s intolerance for sin. I know, kind of confusing. Not really. It simply means that if no one speaks up against anything, then everything is okay. One great man who chooses to speak up is Billy Graham. Billy Graham's Prayer For Our Nation: “Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!” Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, 'The Rest of the Story”' and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired. The phrase “silent majority” has been used over the years to describe the majority of Americans that do and say nothing about national affairs. The worst thing we can do as Jesus-followers is nothing. I’m not suggesting we are all called to move to Washington D.C. and lobby over the issues, but I am suggesting that we all can do something. As parents, teachers and coaches, we should all be trying to teach the balance between loving everyone and standing up for truth and values. It’s a tough balance. Billy Graham was once asked whether America should be held accountable for the abortion issue. He simply shared the story about the allied troops forcing the citizens in the village surrounding Auschwitz and other villages to come and witness the corpses and bury the bodies. I think Graham’s point was that, though those citizens hadn't been involved in the genocide, they were passively responsible because they’d done nothing to prevent the slaughter. So, what are we doing? I’m afraid most of us Christians are doing nothing. Let’s accept the challenge today to pray for our nation. Earnest, fervent prayer is doing something. Let’s share with our children and friends and neighbors about the truth and freedom that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is doing something. Let’s stand up and speak out for the principles of truth and life. That is doing something. And, if God so leads, let’s go and actively lobby for these issues. Most of all, let’s love. It is, after all, the “greatest of these.” By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, February 3, 2013


“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” -Phil. 4:23 I think my favorite word is Grace. It’s such a fun word to say and repeat….GRACE. It flows off the tongue so easily. It brings a smile to my face every time I say it. Yet it’s a concept that most of us have difficulty understanding. To grant someone pardon who has done ZERO to earn it is beyond our comprehension to understand. But when we pass it on to our spouse or our kids or to anyone, even ourselves, it's powerful. I love these words from Paul Tillich: "Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for-perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness and it is as though a voice were saying, 'You are accepted.' You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now, perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted! If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance." (The Shaking of the Foundations, [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948]). Tillich’s words speak to our world that is consumed with work and sweat and earning what we deserve. It was a concept taught to me early in life, not just in the home but by the American society. The commercial said, “We make money the old-fashioned way- we earn it.” Then grace entered my life. A loving Father God said, “Rest, relax and enter my grace. Then go to work.” Too often I go to work to earn that grace and I leave frustrated. But when I put grace first, the work is at peace, not fretful and demanding. Relax in His grace today. It’s okay, you’re not cheating. Rest. And have a great day at work. By Eric Joseph Staples ©