Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's That Smell?

Ahadi, the ten-year-old daughter of Mwamba, stood beside her father and pointed down the slope from where her village rested on the mountain. Her mouth and eyes were wide open with wonder. She pointed at an oddity she had never seen. Three men in strange clothes and stranger skin were climbing toward their village. Ahadi spoke to her father as would any child seeing something so completely out of the ordinary. The excitement, fear, and curiosity in her voice was met with a hush from her father as he observed and examined a sight equally unfamiliar to him.

Mwamba raised his right hand and spoke a quick command. At his command, drums began to sound, calling the people of the village to acknowledge the arrival of outsiders. Soon, Ahadi's finger was not the only one pointing, and her voice was joined by a hundred others.

"Look at their skin. It has no color," shouted Ahadi's friend, Ambata.

The village was alive with the same question: "Who are they?"

"Well, I think we've been spotted," said Thomas as he looked up the hill and saw hundreds of smiles and stares. The closer Thomas, Cliff, and Samuel got to the village, the harder it became to breathe. Not because of the altitude, but because of the odor. No matter how many villages they entered in these mountains, they could not get used to the pungent odor of diseased skin afflicted with sores and lesions. The disease was not from a physical origin. It was spiritual.

Thomas first read about this strange mountain in an old book he had received when a missionary friend of the family gave Thomas his personal library. Thomas assumed it was nothing more than folklore, myth, and superstition. After all, who ever heard of an entire mountain range where the sinfulness of the people who lived there manifested itself in lesions, sores, and cracked skin?

Thomas had tried for years to dismiss the notion, but it kept returning to his thoughts nearly every time he prayed. At night, his dreams were filled with visions of dark-skinned people tormented by an itching, stinking disease. They cried out for someone to help them in his dreams. Finally, Thomas shared this peculiar information with Samuel, a friend at church. Samuel instantly became intrigued. Before long, their research led them to a few possibilities of where this mountain might be. They agreed to make an adventure out of laying the myth of this mountain to rest.

Thomas and Samuel took two trips and hiked four different mountains, but found nothing. On their second trip, at a rundown Kenyan hotel, they met Cliff, a global strategist for a soft drink company who just happened to be the grandson of a missionary. Within a few hours, Thomas was sharing his strange story with this complete stranger, expecting Cliff to write him off as delusional. But to his surprise, Cliff had heard of this mountain from his grandfather.

Cliff recounted to Thomas and Samuel how his grandfather often spoke of a mountain inhabited by diseased people. All Cliff remembered from those conversations was his grandfather's description of the horrendous odor that kept any missionaries from entering the villages and how each village on the mountain was outlined with fallen trees. Cliff remembered the "fallen tree fence" because of the unusual description of the tree. Each tree was large, twenty feet long, stripped of its bark and limbs, and twisted by nature into the shape of a snake.

It didn't take long before all three men were firing up their laptops and ipads to scan the mountains on Thomas' list through online satellite images. "It shouldn't be that hard to locate snake-shaped fences around villages," said Cliff.

"It wasn't," answered Thomas with a wry smile. He had found the images of the snake-like fence. Thus, he had found the mountain. The three men parted ways, agreeing on a time to return and visit this odd place they named Mission Mountain. That was four months ago.

Now they were here. Climbing the mountain of the "Skinners" - a name Samuel had tagged them with because their skin revealed their sin. The three men had taken every measure they could to prepare themselves for the tremendous odor. Nothing worked. The odor penetrated masks, cologne-drenched nostrils, and cotton balls dipped in vaseline and rammed up their noses. The men fought through the horrific smell of the disease because they knew they had the cure and they believed they had been sent to deliver the Skinners from this disease.

Mwamba was the first to approach the three men. He couldn't help but stare at their skin. It was not just the fascination of seeing white people. It was the rare glimpse of a disease-free adult. Only the babies of these villages had clear skin. Nothing they tried prevented it from infecting them as they grew older. No cure or ritual or witch doctor had ever been successful at relieving the pain, let alone removing the disease.

As with the other villages on the mountain range, the three men were met with great curiosity and overwhelming friendliness that erupted into joy and excitement. The entire population of the village was ecstatic to see the men.

It all replayed itself the same way it had in the other villages, until Hadiya approached the three men with tears, rushed up to them and began sniffing and smelling their hands and arms. Hadiya was an elderly woman who looked well past 90 years of age, but may have been younger due to the damaging effects of the disease. The sniffing and smelling from Hadiya caught the men off guard. This hadn't happened before.

As Hadiya inhaled their scent, her eyes closed in peace, she fell to her knees and lifted her hands to the sky, and muttered words from her heart language through tears of joy and gratitude.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say she was thanking God," said Samuel. The men were stunned at this because nowhere had they found anyone among the villages who believed in a personal God or showed any understanding of the concept of prayer.

None of the three men spoke the heart language of this group of people, but Cliff knew Swahili. He asked the crowd gathered around them in Swahili what the woman was saying, hoping that someone among them knew the language.

Mwamba stepped forward with tears streaming down his face. "Hadiya say, 'Thank you, Spirit-Man. Thank you for sending these men. You showed them to me when I was a girl. Now they are here to give us Your words that will free us from our pain.'"

Cliff stood there in awe. The shocked look on his face caused Samuel to ask, "What? What is it? What did she say?" Through tears, Cliff interpreted her words to Samuel and Thomas. They were all stunned at the powerful work of God.

After several long minutes of trying to absorb this holy moment, Thomas was still confused by the sniffing incident. "Why did she smell our skin?"

The translation process through Cliff, Mwamba, and Hadiya gave the answer: "Because the Spirit-Man said I would know these men were from Him because they would have His sweet fragrance."

While Cliff and Thomas slowly sniffed their own hands and arms, the word "fragrance" struck a nerve with Samuel. He quickly opened his New Testament to 2nd Corinthians 2:14-15, and read these words:

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."

Salvation came to that village that day, as it had to others previously and since. God gave an unusual sign on this unusual mountain range. Every person in every village who placed his or her faith in Jesus was instantly healed of the skin disease. The pungent odor was blown away by the wind of the Spirit and the people took on the fragrance of Christ.

I Smell you?
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Excuse Me While I Fly

People saw people flying. Or so they thought.

Last Friday, January 27, 2012, onlookers in Manhattan suddenly found themselves reliving the old "Superman" intro: "Look! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's..."

No, it wasn't Superman. It was three remote-controlled people-kites. The promoters of a new series called "Chronicle" wanted to drum up some buzz about their show, so they hired some brilliant folks from the Academy of Model Aeronautics to design and fly remote controlled planes that look like people. The video of the live event is pretty amazing. It really looks like three people dressed in superhero costumes are flying around NYC.

As I watched the video, it sparked something on my insides. I want to fly. Without the airplane or parasail this time. I don't even want canisters of jet fuel strapped to my ankles. I just want to fly. Not a chemically enhanced flying, either. There was that time in the dentist chair with the novacaine when the dentist stepped out of the room and forgot to return. He finally returned to a very happy Perry. There were other times involving other things that I refuse to incriminate myself with from younger days. But, I don't want to just FEEL like I'm flying. I want to fly.

And I will.

"Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air..." (1st Thessalonians 4:17, NKJV).

Righteoussssss! No, really. Righteous. This is a promise to those who have dumped their own attempts at righteousness (being right and doing right) and accepted by faith the righteousness of God through a personal commitment relationship with Jesus Christ. A few verses before, Paul wrote, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again..." There it is. That's where it begins. Start there. Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again? If you can say "yes" to that, you're on your way.

Next you need to ask yourself why Jesus died and who Jesus died for. What was the whole purpose of it? The answer is found in the most googled spiritual, Biblical, or religious reference on the web - John 3:16: "For God so loved the world (replace 'the world' with your name) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (you, me, anybody) believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

I believe I will fly. Destination Jesus. No pilot. No seat belt. No kidding.

See you there...or in the air.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Resting on His Easel

I’m not smart enough to understand or explain all the things that happen in life. Some of life’s details puzzle me because my view is limited. While I don’t understand all the details, I believe I have a solid grasp on the big things - the really important stuff. I believe there is a God. But more than that, I believe He is a personal God who created us with a purpose and part of that purpose is to have a relationship with Him through love and faith. I also believe that a personal, loving God who creates with purpose and a desire to know His creation would send a message loud and clear to those He loves.

He did.

Short version? God has revealed the big things to us through His Son, Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible.

The things that matter – the big things - are all covered in the life and message of Jesus and the Bible. Things like life, death, faith, hope, peace, forgiveness, grace, love, commitment, and eternity are all in the book. Above and behind all those things that matter is God – the Architect, the Artist, the Engineer – whatever metaphor works for you.

Today, let's think of God as the Artist. The world is His canvas. His brush moves with purpose. Included within that canvas is the heart and life of every one of God’s children. You are there. So am I. Somewhere on that enormous canvas, you'll find my portrait as only God can paint it. What you see in the God-painting of me depends on where you stand. If you narrow your focus into my life and see only a few details, you miss the big picture. But you not only miss the big picture of my life, you miss the bigger picture of God’s purpose.

Some of you have known me all my life. Others knew me in my childhood years. Many of you have known me just a few years or months. If you only see a few years or months of me, you stand too close to the canvas. If you focus only on what you’ve seen, you miss the greater understanding. It all depends upon what part of my life you have seen. You may have been in God's art studio while He was splashing my life with bright and brilliant colors. Or, you may have witnessed brush strokes of darker colors. Or both. Some of you have witnessed the good. Others, the bad. And those who have witnessed the ugly and remained friends? God bless you. God's paintbrush has dabbed from all corners of His palette while painting me.

You too?

If you talked to others who were in God's art studio of my life at a different time than you, it would be like zooming out from the canvas a bit. You would see with greater clarity. More importantly, the larger picture would come into view. The most important brush strokes on the canvas of my life occurred when I was a teenager. Against the backdrop of dark colors, I opened the canvas of my heart freely to God and surrendered my life to Him. I asked God to forgive me of my dark colors. I invited God to paint a cross across my heart and autograph the name JESUS into my soul. God dipped His brush into a blood-colored cup and swept it across my life. I went from a cheap "paint by numbers" future to a masterpiece in that moment.

I can’t explain some of the brush strokes. Some of the darker colors. Some are there because of my own selfishness and foolishness. Others are there mysteriously. If they have a purpose, I'm unable to figure them out.

But I don’t have to...because I trust the Artist.

Even when I know there’s a bigger picture that I haven’t seen and things I may never understand, I choose to trust and believe that He has a purpose. And I've never tried to make Him answerable to me. He's the Artist. I'm just the canvas.

Step back even further from the canvas of my life and you’ll see that God didn’t paint me separate from the rest of the painting. No. Some of the paint from my life bleeds into what God has painted and is painting into yours, and vice-versa. Influence lingers. Integrity stands in bold colors.

Our colors touch.

Like I said, my view is limited. None of us can explain all of the brush strokes God has painted into our lives. But there’s One whose view isn’t limited. God knows what He's doing. Even when those final brush strokes are made - just before our portion of the canvas is finished - there are liable to be many dark, undiscernible splashes where God's hand pushes hard on the brush. Sickness. Accidents. Loss. Failing health. Losing the struggle to breath. Where we might see tragedy, God sees majesty. In fact, the Bible says so. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

I have a picture in my mind when one of God's dear children dies. It’s a picture of God setting the brush down, stepping back, looking at that portion of the canvas dedicated to the earthly life of that precious loved one, and smiling a smile of satisfaction that says, “Well done, Child. You are a good and faithful servant.”

Precious in the sight of God…

I’m not an artist nor the son of one and you may not be either, but we are a canvas. And there is an Artist. Brush in hand. Purpose in mind. Grace, love, and beauty in heart. Would you surrender the canvas of your heart to Him and trust Him? It makes all the difference in the world.

Resting on His Easel,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fuzz Buster

God. Truth. Choice. Consequence. What do we do when words and concepts become fuzzy to us? We need to do some soul-searching. We need honest, painful, gut-check, reality checking.

Why? Because this stuff matters and matters forever. If God is who the Bible says He is and not just whatever you think He is, then this isn't a game. It's real. The real question when words and concepts become fuzzy to us is this: Are the words and concepts fuzzy in and of themselves or is it my vision that has become impaired?

The Bible is quite unfuzzy about God and truth. God doesn't change. Period. Do not try to adjust Him when He appears to gets fuzzy or when others try to convince you He's fuzzy. Genesis 3 tells us who is behind all attempts to make God and His word seem fuzzy. If God appears fuzzy to you, you're wearing Serpent glasses.

What about truth? Truth is truth. It doesn't change, either. Even when your society, your culture, your favorite talk show host, and your most esteemed and highest educated tongue-waggers tell you that truth is relative, it doesn't change the truth about truth. There is right and wrong. Period. The same God who isn't fuzzy has given us His unfuzzy and unfuzziable truth. Man can't tell God who God is. God tells man who God is.

Nor can man tell God what God should accept from man. Cain tried that. God wanted an animal sacrifice. Cain showed up with a vegetable tray as if to tell God, "I think this is better." Cain was dead wrong.

That leaves us with a choice - the third one in the list above. If God isn't fuzzy and God's truth isn't fuzzy, then how fuzzy are our choices? Not very. We have a choice to believe Him, His Word, His ways, and His promises (promises of what will happen to those who obey His truth and those who do not), or we can choose to disobey. There's no "Choice Purgatory" where we can bargain for a lesser degree of obedience or punishment. There isn't a court of appeals at the corner of heaven and hell.

We either choose to take God at His word and obey or we choose to disobey. After we make our choice to obey or disobey, we are then introduced to the consequences that tag along behind each choice. The consequences can be numerous. One consequence is that every sin I commit and refuse to repent of leads me to commit an even worse sin which leads to an even worse sin, and the tilt continually only leads me further from God and deeper into misery, emptiness, and loneliness.

Cain's anger led to the premeditated homicide of his brother and a curse upon him that was more than he could bear.

There are other consequences, as well. My sin hurts more than me. It hurts others, especially those close to me. As my selfishness rises, my view of their worth diminishes and the ego I feed becomes a beast who devours those who truly care about me.

Some consequences cannot be altered. If I stole a car, was arrested, and in jail asked God to forgive me, God would forgive. Would that cause the deputy to unlock the doors or the judge to dismiss the case? Not likely.


(Aren't you glad there's a "but"?)

But God is a God of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. There is always a turning point with God. God doesn't condone what we do nor give us permission to continue what He says we should not do, but He does forgive us when we stop doing things our way and start doing them His way.

We ask. He forgives.
We pivot. He guides.
We stretch out our hand toward His to find His waiting on ours.

Cain found that God was merciful even to repentant murderers. I never killed my brother, though my thoughts on the subject came dangerously close a time or two. But I've made messes of my own. And I've found that God is merciful when I repent of my messes, too.

God. Truth. Choice. Consequence. It all starts with how accurate your vision of God is. There's a very accurate eye exam that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation. Take it. If you see a cross with tearful clarity, you pass.

The Eyes Have It,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Dad's Broken Heart in the Father's Blessed Hands

Six months ago, a fifteen-year-old FFA student named Skylar went to her home in heaven after an accident. She was in a suburban with other students and a school teacher heading to an FFA event when the accident occurred.

Last night, her dad, David, spoke to a house full of men about the journey of his family's loss. To say that it was touching is an enormous understatement. Yes, every man in the room was touched to see the grace of God at work in the life of a man faced with such grief and heartache. But more than that, we were challenged to live for God like never before.

David spoke from the raw, yet deep experiences of his six-month journey and came to some very sobering decisions. He said that when you go through something like what he and his family are going through, you have two options: "fall back on God or push God away." I am so thankful to have witnessed what happens in a man's life when he decides to fall wholeheartedly back on God. Everything changes. Especially your focus and your purpose.

David goes to bed at night and asks two questions: 1) What did I do for God today, and 2) what did God do for me today? He said the second one is always easier to list than the first. God always does more for us than we do for Him, but why don't we do more for Him than we do?

I didn't know Skylar until last night. I can honestly say I know her now because I've seen her through her daddy's heart. Her relatively short time on this earth was well-lived for her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of the way she lived her life for Christ, others have come to accept Him as their personal Savior, including a young girl whose route to school every day goes by the scene of the accident where Skylar died. That young girl and her family learned about Skylar and the way she lived her life for Christ, and she wanted to know Skylar's Savior personally.

I am challenged today by a dad whose love for God is helping him walk through the darkest nights of his life with a light that helps others find, believe in, and cling to our heavenly Father. The heart of that dad reminds me of the heart of that Father. God, our heavenly Father, gave His only Son willingly to die on the cross as an eternal payment for your sins and mine. That's an awesome Father, an amazing gift, and an incredible love!

Wherever you are right now -- whatever you're going through -- would you stop for a minute and make a decision to fall wholeheartedly into the arms of God? Pushing Him away only leads to darker darkness, lonelier loneliness, and emptier emptiness.

Darkness needs light. Loneliness needs presence. Emptiness needs substance. God gives all three generously to those who seek Him.

What can I do for You today, Lord?
Perry Crisp

Monday, June 27, 2011

War Against Words

"This is war!" Three words shouted by a madman just before he opened fire on the people gathered at First Baptist Church, Daingerfield, Texas in the summer of 1980. His "war" came without warning and was unleashed with tremendous fury on the innocent.

It was a war no one knew existed until it erupted that June morning. It was a war I will never forget. It has left permanent visual images on my mind. Since that day, there have been similar one-man acts of war that have ambushed innocent people on college campuses, churches, schools, and other public places.

There are wars we know are wars, and there are wars we remain unaware of until we're under attack. There are visible, strategic, correspondents-on-the-ground wars and invisible, surprise, no-one-knew-this-was-coming wars. Pearl Harbor and Nine Eleven rank high on our nation's memory of surprise attacks.

There are at least two ways to be invisible. One is to fly under the radar so that no one sees you. The other is to be so cleverly disguised that no one sees you even when you're right out in the open. There is an invisible war taking place right now. It is not flying under the radar. It is out in the open. Yet, few see it.

Even though it is a war on all fronts, it continues to go unnoticed. The reason it continues to go unnoticed is because its strategy is one of slow erosion. The outer defenses have been systematically removed with intellectual sniper fire. Yet, it is not a war against man, though man is a casualty. It's a war against paper. Paper? Paper. Documents. Parchments. Scrolls. It is a war against the authoritative documents once respected and obeyed in this land.

The strength of this nation is directly linked to the principles, values, and Divine guidance found in written form. The primary source of the U. S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, our nation's authoritative documents, is the Bible. Those who question that fact wear a darker blindfold than Lady Liberty. Not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of defiance against the notion of an involved God in the affairs of man.

The content of our conduct contained in those parchments of liberty and law are reflective of that which is contained in God's Word. State Constitutions are an even greater reflection of a Biblical foundation. Yet, we now live in a day when all the authoritative documents of our land, especially the Bible, are under fire.

Liberties are being squeezed into handcuffs. Laws of God-ordained human conduct and decency are being court marshalled. Man has assumed an editing role over what God has written and drawn red ink X's over sections that do not meet with their approval or desired lifestyle urges.

When men elevate themselves above their authoritative documents, there is anarchy. When men tell God who He can and cannot be and what He can and cannot do or say, the insane have truly taken over the sanitarium.

We have mislabeled arrogance and called it wisdom. We have substituted pride with what we were told was enlightenment. We have forced nature to accept what is unnatural. We have become so subnormal that the normal is now seen as abnormal. We celebrate homosexuality and mock celibacy. We fight vociferously to save whales in icy waters and send scalpels into hearts beating with human life inside human wombs. We have decided humans are evolved monkeys and then wondered why our children act more like monkeys than humans.

This is a war that is fully engaged and rapidly gaining strength. We need to be students of history. When Israel behaved similarly, turned her back on God's Word and God's ways, allowed man-made gods equal status to the God who made man, the God who made man removed His hedge of protection and allowed peoples of distant lands and purveyors of pagan religions to cart them off as conquered enemies.

To engage this battle for the soul of this nation, let us return to the primary document of true faith which includes the following directive: "If My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The hope of healing for this nation is real. You have just read the prescription needed to bring healing. Will we fall to our knees...or be brought to them?

On the Battlefield of Prayer,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Homeless No More

Last Saturday, Max Melitzer's life and world changed. Max started out the day the same way he had for at least four years - pushing a shopping cart that contained his few possessions, roaming the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah, eating at rescue missions, and sleeping outside.

Max had no home and no hope...until Saturday. As Max pushed his shopping cart through Pioneer Park, a man approached him and asked if they could sit and talk. Max sat down on a park bench and received the news that his brother who had died of cancer last year left him a significant amount of money in his will. Max knew that his brother had died, but had no idea that he had been included in his brother's will.

David Lundberg, the private detective hired by the Melitzer family to find Max, told the Associated Press, "He'll no longer be living on the street or in abandoned storage sheds. He'll be able to have a normal life, and be able to have a home, provide for himself, and purchase clothing, food and health care."

Last Saturday, Max sat down a poor man and stood up a rich man. He had done nothing to improve the status of his life. Nor was it blind luck that reversed his course. Max's life changed because of a generous gift from someone who loved him more than he realized.

Max knew that his brother had died. But he didn't know that his brother's death turned the tumblers that opened a vault that would change his destiny.

You probably have some level of knowledge regarding the person named Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ. The Messiah. It is also quite likely that you have been informed that Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years ago.

But did you know...

•Jesus loves you more than you realize?

•Jesus was heaven's generous gift to you that opened an eternal inheritance you could never earn or repay?

•Jesus' death turned the tumblers that opened heaven's vault that could change your forever destiny if you will accept Him by faith?

Max received an inheritance from someone who loved him. An inheritance that came only after death. Max has a choice. He can either accept or refuse the gift. But how could he turn away from that sacrificial gift of love without rejecting the giver? I'm sure that Max feels unworthy and humbled by the gift. But I'm also sure that he loves his brother now more than ever because he knows how much his brother truly loved him.

Your response to Jesus is the same. You have the same options Max has, yet with eternal implications and consequences. I yearn to testify that I have accepted the sacrificial gift from Jesus, though no one is less worthy of it or more humbled by it.

Jesus loves me, this I know - for the cross tells me so.
Perry Crisp