Sunday, April 27, 2014

Post Easter

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel…” -2Tim. 2:8 By now, the Easter decorations are put away and the candy is long gone. You might still find a few Easter egg remnants around the house but, for most, Easter is a faint memory. But a week ago, Sunday, we were dressing in our best to head out the door to a beautiful Easter service. The day to celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead had arrived. But have we have already forgotten? It is absolutely crucial that we never forget. We have a tendency to forget. In the spiritual realm, a place where we seldom camp, the evil one is fast at work in the cessation of a positive thought life. We remember the bad and forget the good. We will overly dwell on a past mistake but quickly forget a past success. In the Old Testament, that’s why God instituted so many feasts and celebrations: so the nation of Israel wouldn’t forget His blessings. That’s why we need celebrations like Easter: so we will remember that Jesus is alive. And that’s why we have church- whether Sunday, Saturday or whenever- so we will remember Jesus’ resurrection every week. And it’s not just individuals who forget, it’s churches as well. We have to be careful, as a body of believers, to remember the origin of worship. We meet as a church every week specifically so we will remember Easter. Most denominations do not worship on the Sabbath, which according to Jewish law is the last day of the week (Saturday), when God rested from all the work he had done in creation (Gen. 2:2-3). Most churches worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Sunday); the day when God said "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3); the day when Christ rose from the dead; the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles (Day of Pentecost). The actual day of worship is not important. Paul said, ““Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or Sabbath” (Col. 2:16). The point is that when we gather as believers in Christ, whatever the day, we celebrate Easter all over again. We’re to celebrate Easter every week. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Every week? Most churches focus more energy on Easter. Special music, videos and a take-home souvenir highlight most church services on Easter. The budget for most Easter services is twice that for the “regular” service. It is the highest day of attendance for churches across the land. Why? Because the spectacle of Easter attracts the masses. Oh, that the “spectacle” would continue the other 364 days of the year, not just in churches, but in the hearts of us all. Jesus’ death and resurrection were not just a historical event, but an every day privilege to enjoy. We wake every day to the reality that our redeemer lives, not on a distant planet somewhere, but in the hearts of those who, by faith, have confessed their belief in Jesus Christ. Remember Easter every day. Remind your kids of Easter every day. Reach out to Jesus as your risen Lord every day. Reflect on His tremendous love for you every day. Relax in His awesome peace and love others with His strength. Enjoy Easter every day of the year… …and the chocolate Easter eggs as well. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter: More Than a Holiday

“…and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” -2Cor. 5:15 Easter. This season stirs up so many emotions. Or, it doesn’t stir up much at all. Our society is so desensitized to holidays that they come and go without much fanfare. But Easter is different. It’s more than a Holiday- it’s the absolute, once-and-for-all proof that Jesus lives. It seems that every day is a holiday to somebody. Every greeting card marketing firm has made it their goal to produce more and more holidays thus increasing the need for their product. Let’s take this next week, for instance. You may not have known that April 18th is “High Five” day, April 19th is “Garlic” day, April 21st is “Bulldogs are beautiful” day, April 22nd is “Jelly Bean” Day, April 23rd is “Talk like Shakespeare” day, April 24th is “Pigs in a Blanket” day, and to finish off the week, April 25th is (my favorite) “Hairball Awareness” day. It seems that anyone that has enough money and influence can create a holiday. So, how did Easter become a holiday? Certainly, as the liturgical early church grew in power, tradition set the stage for Easter. Even the alternating timing of Easter each year reflects its importance. "Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox.” Hum. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what that means. But apparently the early church fathers wished to keep the observance of Easter in correlation to the Jewish Passover. Because the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ happened after the Passover, they wanted Easter to always be celebrated subsequent to the Passover. And, since the Jewish holiday calendar is based on solar and lunar cycles, each feast day is movable, with dates shifting from year to year. But much like Christmas itself, the actual date is really not that important. What’s important is that it happened. Easter itself was designed by none other than God Himself. By grace, God the Father sent His Son to be born. By grace He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as a substitute for our sin. And then, by grace, He allowed Jesus to rise and live again to prove that he had defeated death. Easter isn’t just a holiday. It is a statement shouted out from God Himself that He is alive and well and still rules all creation. And it’s a reminder that in all His majesty, He desires a personal relationship with His most precious creation, you and me. So have a wonderful Easter celebration. Enjoy the Easter egg hunts and the chocolate bunnies, but don’t forget the real meaning of Easter. As you gather with your family and celebrate the holiday, be reminded of the meaning of “holiday” itself. It means “holy day” or “days set aside to be holy.” May we let this Easter be “set aside” as a time to thank God for His greatest gift of all…a risen Savior who is alive and well and desiring a relationship with us all today. What a beautiful and special day for us all to be more aware of His presence… …and less aware of hairballs. by Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, April 13, 2014


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” -Matt. 23:27 The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word hypokritḗs. It literally means “a judging under,” like a performer acting under a mask (i.e. a theater-actor). It figuratively means a two-faced person; a "hypocrite," whose profession does not match their practice – i.e. someone who "says one thing but does another." It works well on the stage, but not so good in real life. Jesus condemned the hypocrites and today, we don’t like anyone who is “two-faced” either. We prefer someone who is genuine. The recipe for being genuine hasn’t changed much over the years. It calls for a willingness to be real and honest. It requires us to reveal ourselves with all our strengths, weaknesses and faults. Most people aren’t secure enough to display who they really are. But when who we are matches what we are, life is lived in true freedom. Otherwise, we have to wear masks. The masks cover up that part of us that we don’t want others to see. Someone told me the other day that, as a salesman, “It’s absolutely a necessity that I always be at the top of my game when I’m with clients. I can’t be having a tough day. I have to be positive and perfect to make the sale.” Most of us begin our days with that dilemma. We wake sometimes with hearts clogged with issues- unresolved relationship issues, past hurts and misgivings, or fear of the future. The day begins and our personality splits between who we want to be and who we are. Thankfully, God has provided an integrity plan. 1 John 1:9 outlines the phenomenal system designed by God to keep our hearts clean and who we are matching what we are. It’s called forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Our awesome God forgives us and our hearts are cleansed. If we accept Jesus as our Savior, no masks are required. We are children of God, broken and humble and able to live lives of integrity. In Christ, we obtain the security to live honest lives, where our inside and outsides match. We don’t have to be hypocrites. We don’t have to wear the masks. We can be genuine. What we say can match what we do. But sometimes Christians practice mask-wearing more than non-Christians. Kenneth Wuest said, "Christianity requires that believers should be open and above-board. They should be themselves. Their lives should be like an open book, easily read." That’s the catch with being a Christian. We have admitted and confessed our need for a loving God. Through brokenness and humility, we have seen the need for Jesus to mend our broken hearts, but we have to live in the reality of the control of the Lord in our lives. Otherwise, the drama begins. The curtain rises on our day, we put on our mask, and the disparity begins. Who we are doesn’t match what we believe. We don’t have to “fake it till we make it” because we’ve already made it. We don’t have to be someone we are not- wealthier, prettier, or stronger- we are simply children of God. And that is enough. What you see is what you get. In his classic The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” No mask is necessary when we are children of the living God. May our security be found only in Jesus and His power and might. May we shed the masks and reveal only one true face… …conforming to the image of Christ. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Growing Goldfish

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” -1Cor. 3:7 Did you know that goldfish can grow up to fifteen inches when they’re released into the wild? Fifteen inches! That’s huge. Did you also know that kids, when they’re properly released, can grow as well? Those cute little goldfish bought at Wal Mart seemingly morph into monsters when released. And this is presenting a problem in lakeside communities where the little darlings are disposed of in the public water system. Officials at Lake Tahoe say the giant goldfish are increasing at an alarming rate. The lakes are filling up with these oversized beauties. Give them warm water and a limitless food supply and they just keep growing and growing. Kids grow when they’re released as well. Of course, it’s how they’re released that matters. When raised with the ability to grow and search out the right environment, most kids absolutely thrive. But they have to be given the chance to leave. Most people love little goldfish. They’re pretty and simple. Sprinkle a few specks of food on the top every day and clean out the tank occasionally and the maintenance is low. Have you ever tried to maintain a lake of fish? It’s a whole other matter. I spent a few summers at my Uncle Donald’s home in rural Georgia. He had a lake stocked with fish. I loved to go with him to feed the fish. As we’d deposit the bucket loads of food into the lake, the fish would crowd around the boat trying to get a bite. It took a lot of food and a lot of algae maintenance to keep the lake livable for the fish. Let’s face it- it’s easier to take care of a fish bowl than a lake. Little fish are easier to care for than big fish. But fish like to grow. Fish need to grow. There is a fish hatchery near Table Rock dam, not too far from our home. Fish are raised in controlled tanks, up to a certain size, then they’re released into Table Rock and Taneycomo lakes to grow and thrive. As parents we’re not called to cultivate a healthy fishbowl. We’re called to teach our kids how to live in the lake. Parents are called to operate a healthy “catch and release” program- to let their kids go. While we’re raising our little fishes, we need to teach them to lean on the loving God who wants to care for them, how to avoid the lures that seek to entrap them, and where to find the food that sustains them. Then, we release them. It’s scary. Lakes are big and dark and risky. But it’s the place where they can grow and thrive. Let them go. Let them grow. Let them know that they can lean on a loving God. He’s much more secure than any parent can ever be… …and more secure than a fishbowl. By Eric Joseph Staples ©