Friday, February 14, 2014


“Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” —1 Samuel 7:12 I dedicate this blog to my father-in-law, Burton Beadle, better known as Papa. I’m adding to the article he sent me by Gary Parratt. Papa has always been a remarkable example of God’s faithfulness. Thank you Papa! “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood. —Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing I’ve always wondered what an “Ebenezer” was. As it tells us in I Samuel, it literally means “stone of help” in Hebrew. When times are difficult, we all need reminders that God is in control. We all need reminders of God’s faithfulness. After a long period of sadness and trouble, a consequence of Israel’s disobedience, Israel repented under the leadership of a new priest and judge, Samuel. God restored their political security, and the people, for their part, re-committed their hearts and minds to their Lord. Samuel placed a large stone at the place where this restoration began. He publicly dedicated it as a monument to God’s help, God’s faithfulness, and God’s eternal covenant. And as the people got on with their lives, the stone stood there, visible to all who passed that way, a reminder of judgment and repentance, mercy and restoration. The Ebenezer stone represented a fresh beginning, a reversal of course for God’s people. It also said something important about God: his mercies are everlasting; his covenant is forever. I have friends who keep prayer journals. They record their requests to God and the answers they receive. In this way, they can go back into the past and review their walk with God; they are reminded of his faithfulness. Prayer journals are a type of Ebenezer stone. Notes and dates written in our Bibles by particular verses are a type of Ebenezer stone. Members of AA can tell you how long they have been sober. They keep alive the memory of the last drink they took, and with each new day, one day at a time, they move farther down the road of sobriety. AA is on to something important. Do they ask their members to count the number of years spent in drunken waste? No. They count the days spent walking in a new direction. All that went before is water over the dam. I tend to beat myself up about mistakes I made long, long ago. I don’t forgive myself, even though I accept the fact of God’s forgiveness. Perhaps you can identify with me. But that’s not what God desires. Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” We should set up Ebenezer stones to serve as continual reminders that we are forgiven, that we have chosen a new direction, that God has made a permanent covenant with all who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Samuel was a wise and godly man with a good idea. He recognized something that’s true about human nature—we’re forgetful. At Ebenezer, Israel could stand next to that big old rock and remind themselves, “Yes, we serve a living and faithful God, whose mercies are everlasting.” So this year let’s set up “stones” to remind us that God is and always will be faithful. Set a picture on your dresser to remind you. Tape a card on your mirror to remind you. Or put a rock on your bed stand to remind you that God is there. Remember that God is our “stone of help”… …and our solid rock. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, February 3, 2014


“And Jesus said to the disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” -Mark 1:16-18 I played sports back in the day when stretching exercises weren’t much of a priority. So, years of soccer, football, running and inflexibility have taken their toll on my lower back. Though I stretched before running, over time, I started experiencing back pain. The final straw was climbing a 14er in Colorado last Spring. I carried a backpack and the strain of the hike left me in bad shape. I consulted with my doctor and she suggested that I have an X-ray and see a physical therapist. I had the X-ray done and it showed that I had arthritis in my lower back. Discouraged, I visited a physical therapist that showed me a series of stretching exercises and encouraged me to continue to exercise. “You are extremely tight,” he said, “but with these stretching exercises, it will increase your flexibility and decrease your lower back pain.” The journey began. I was unofficially placed on “injured reserve” and I entered into a rehabilitation program. I soon discovered that becoming flexible is not easy. It requires work to keep things stretched out. I’d witnessed flexibility for years watching Jeanie. As a gymnast, she has amazing flexibility. I watch her stretch and it’s scary. Like “Gumby” (remember Gumby?), she can move her arms and legs in all kinds of directions with little effort. Not me. I’m as tight as “ballet tights on an offensive lineman.” But there’s more to flexibility than just stretching a few muscles. Having flexibility in life is a lot more important. Someone defined flexibility as, “being open to the plans and ideas of others, and willing to be instructed and challenged to change for the better.” We have to be willing to bend; if not, our relationships will break. Flexibility helps us see the big picture ad how people and events are all interlinked with a sovereign God in charge. In this way, we can see that our plans and ways are not autonomous; we can trust God, go with His flow, and make the most of opportunities and relationships. Therefore, we will be able to make changes in our plans and ideas to accommodate others, and fit the situation, centered upon God. It’s not easy for tight people like me, but as I regularly do the exercises, the flexibility grows. Inflexibility, stubbornness, conceit, and self-importance are all opposites of flexibility. These traits are steeped in pride and to our loving and Holy Lord, they are repulsive. We see ourselves as the center, the key to the universe or, at the very least, of what and who is around us. Therefore, we base all of our decisions on our needs and feelings, ignoring others, not seeing the big picture or being accommodating in order to make the right decisions and go in the right directions. P-R-I-D-E, with a capital “I” right in the middle (literally). We are tight when we try to run and “go” even though we feel the pain in the midst of the workout and beyond. Be willing to be flexible. Be willing to stretch your will to allow God to have His way in His plans and way. Sure, set goals and be prepared, but do those stretching exercises. That way, when the plans change (and they will), you will be okay with the new direction. Remember, “Father knows best.” His way is the best way, whether it makes sense or not. We need to keep up the stretching by going to Jesus regularly and submitting to His way. We may not all be ready to do back flips… …but we’ll be secure enough to let His way prevail. By Eric Joseph Staples ©