Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Above the Blue

While digging a pond on my property the other day, I saw a slightly odd-looking small puddle of blue water. It was barely noticeable, but stood out just enough to make me curious.

The opening line of the theme song from Beverly Hillbillies started playing in my mind as I looked at that blue water. All hopes of striking oil were soon dashed when I learned why the little puddle of water was blue.

In the middle of that puddle was a root from an oak tree that had taken a pretty serious flesh wound from my shovel. The root was bleeding blue. It was explained to me that certain oak trees will bleed blue when they have had a nail, barbed wire fence, or any type of metal penetration that rusted inside the tree.

As to the source of this information, allow me to insert a disclaimer. The individual that I learned this "blue tree phenomenon" from is a walking dictionary and seems to have a lot of knowledge about a lot of stuff that would cause most of us to scratch our heads. However, he's also the kind of guy that would pull a practical joke on his preacher!

So, the disclaimer is: I have no proof to back up this theory nor am I one hundred percent certain that my dear friend wouldn't relish in the prospect of making me look foolish.

That said...I couldn't help but think about this blue-bleeding root. One rusty nail can discolor the inside of a tree. One rusty barb left embedded in a tree can fester to the point that an imbalance occurs.

The mirror held up to ourselves reflects a similar image. One hurtful comment hammered into your heart can discolor you on the inside if left there. One violation that sinks its barbs into your psyche and stays there can color your view of you, of others, and of God.

How do you rise above "the blues"? The same way the tree does. My source says that the tree is only affected from the point of entry down. Everything above the nail or the barbed wire shows no sign of change. The tree grows above the wound. And it doesn't carry any residual ooze from that wound with it as it grows.

The testimony of the tree speaks to me. Wounds may not leave our history and will always be a part of our personal story, but they do not have to color who we are or what we can accomplish today or tomorrow. Nor should they distort our view. The tree lets the wound stay in the past while it keeps rising taller, enjoying a greater view of the world as it grows each day. We should do the same.

"...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Growing Above the Wounds,
Perry Crisp

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Eyes Have It

My eyes have something to say this morning. Since I have two eyes, you are welcome to read this in stereo. Here, now, are my eyes:

Good morning. It's nice to see you. We've asked for permission to speak to you because of what we just saw this morning in God's Word: "Your eyes will see the King in His beauty..." (Isaiah 33:17).

We can't tell you how excited we were to see those words. It was like God had written a promise directly to us! We were so overjoyed with the thought of seeing God in His beauty, we wanted to borrow some feet so we could dance. Instead, we borrowed some fingers so we could type the joy of this incredible news to you.

We've seen so much that is beautiful over the past 46 years. Beautiful people. Beautiful places. Beautiful things. We've even seen invisible beauty: acts of love, heroism, sacrifice, and tenderness. We've seen beauty that was so beautiful it touched us to tears.

We've seen beauty in the simple as well as the grand. We beheld the beauty of Hawaii and the Bahamas from a parasail's view. Yet found equal beauty in dogwood blooms along our driveway.

We've seen beauty in movies and read beautiful passages from books. But what we've read today tells us of something ahead that transcends beauty. We can't even imagine how beautiful the beauty of our King will be. We've seen earthly kings and how splendidly they are adorned. But God's beauty is on a different scale. The tapestry of earthly fabrics shaped by human fingers cannot compare to heaven's resources draped around the beauty of God and silhoutted by angelic hosts.

Reading Isaiah 33:17 was like seeing a personal invitation addressed to us. What a day that will be! Thanks for letting us share our good news. We hope your eyes feel the same way we do. We're going to see the King! We're going to see the King! We're going to see the King!

Visibly Yours,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Little Boy Who Swam Home

Would you step outside your box for a minute and join me outside mine? I need to tell you a story this morning that requires us to think just a little outside reality.

A young couple took a Caribbean cruise. They had a three-month-old baby boy with them. One afternoon the young father stood at the railing of the cruise ship and spotted two dolphins swimming parallel to the ship. He called his wife over.

She was carrying their precious baby in her arms. (Here's our exit from reality). The wife dolphin swimming alongside the ship looked up and saw the baby human. Unable to have a calf of her own, her maternal issues caused her to weep salty tears.

Husband dolphin asked her what was wrong and she pointed her flipper toward the little boy. He tried to console her, but her grief was too heavy.

Later that night, husband dolphin sat at his favorite tavern and unloaded his dilemma on a few fish at the bar. Together they devised a plan to kidnap the baby human and adopt him as their own.

All went as planned and husband dolphin proudly presented his wife with her very own bundle of joy. Incredibly, the baby boy's lungs adapted and he was able to survive in his new underwater home.

The transition was challenging for little Carnival, but wife dolphin was so thrilled in her new role as mommy dolphin. She patiently helped Carnival develop his taste buds for fish and squid. The little guy seemed to take to shrimp without much difficulty. She taught him how to swim and how to squeak in dolphin language.

All was well in the underwater world...or so it seemed. Carnival never expressed his feelings, but deep inside he knew something was different about him. The other calves his age had noticeably different teeth. His own teeth were large and few in number. They came in one or two at a time and it took forever. His fins were not shaped like the other calves, either. In fact, his fins didn't resemble those of anyone -- including his mom or dad.

It was more than that. Carnival always felt this urge to go up. And when he would jump out of the water, something inside him longed to stay above the water. But his parents were very strict about his jumping. If there were any large objects floating on top of the water, Carnival was forbidden to jump.

The other calves got to do it, but not Carnival. He loved hearing his friends tell of what they saw when the large floating objects came by. But he never told his parents about this obsession of his. They wouldn't understand.

Occasionally, Carnival would find things on the ocean floor that he found very tasty. But these things were not ocean things. They must've fallen from the large floating objects. His favorite food was a little round green thing, shaped like perfectly rounded rocks. They were so tasty and juicy. Most of the time, it looked like something had already eaten it and nothing was left but the core. But occasionally he would find a whole one and devour it.

One day, while a large floating object was passing by and Carnival's buddies were swimming beside it and jumping, Carnival followed from a safe distance and depth. He didn't want to disobey his parents, but he felt drawn to this strange event.

As Carnival trailed behind the large object, something plopped into the water from above and tumbled down right in front of him. It was flat, thin, and colorful. Strange squiggly lines were marked all over it. And there was something else. Something he'd never seen before.

Moments before, the young human mother who'd lost her baby at this exact location two years earlier stood beside the railing of the ship with tears in her eyes. She held a picture that had been taken on the ship the day her son disappeared. It was a family picture. Though she held the picture tightly, a gust of wind blew it from her hands and it fell into the ocean.

Carnival saw the picture and thousands of questions were answered in a glance. He wasn't a dolphin calf! He was a baby human! He didn't belong here! He belonged up there! He realized what he had always sensed and felt deep inside. This was not his home nor his world.

He snatched the picture with his wait, with his hands! He swam as fast as he could to catch up to the large floating object. When he reached it, he jumped as high as he could...

He saw her. She saw him. He swam with his head above water until the large floating object stopped and a tiny floating object was lowered. When the tiny floating object touched the water, Carnival looked up into the face of his father, and his father lifted him up and held him in his arms.

"He has put eternity in their hearts" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Like a Fish out of Water...Knowing Heaven is my Home,
Perry Crisp

Monday, April 21, 2008

Handy Man

"And when He (Jesus) had looked around at them (Pharisees) with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts...” (Mark 3:5).

Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was one of the few who went to church that day to worship. The pews were packed with people whose intentions were filled with evil motives. Those hard-nosed, hard-hearted, hard-headed religious types were there hoping to catch Jesus in a trap. They wanted Jesus to violate a Sabbath rule by healing a man with a withered hand. Apparently, in their eyes, the act of healing would be considered "work," and you weren't supposed to work on the Sabbath.

I'm thinking "trap-setting" requires just as much work as "hand-healing," but we are always better at interpreting the law for others, aren't we?

The worst deformity in the synagogue was not a withered hand, but a room full of hardened hearts. The withered hand stirred Jesus' compassion. The hardened hearts stirred His anger and grief.

Hard soil makes withered flowers. Hard hearts produce withered souls. Both need to be broken before they can be productive.

How often do we gather to worship thinking that the worst sinners are those who failed in some miserably sinful and immoral way during the week, yet perhaps the worst among us are those whose hearts are impenetrable by the Word and worship of God?

We should guard ourselves against a withered heart. The soil of our hearts should be fertile and pliable, nourished by the love of God.

Taking a daily soil-soul sample...
Perry Crisp

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Old Penny

In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel" (Psalm 76:1).

Then there's the good ole USA:
In America, God is forgotten; His name is a distant memory in the land of the free.

An old penny now symbolizes where we are as a nation. Lincoln's profile is worn down so that it is indiscernible. "In God We Trust" is a faded and illegible inscription. The value of the penny is a mere fraction of its former self. Oh, how we resemble that penny.

Our nation is crippled with ancestral alzheimers. We don't remember what our forefathers once taught, believed, and practiced. They forged the framework of this nation on the basis of faith and freedom under God.

Efforts are now under way to remove "In God We Trust" from our currency. If those four words were there to describe our current condition, then they should be removed. We don't trust in God. Yet they should stay on our currency as a constant reminder of the course to which this nation should humbly return.

Like the penny, we are but a fraction of our former greatness. This, of course, depends on your definition of greatness. My definition of greatness places integrity at the top. I get the feeling I'm in the minority.

Anything goes today. And integrity seems to be the first thing to go in every relationship, every transaction, and every decision.

We have placed too much emphasis on the first two letters of USA. In us we trust. But God is not an ancient penny nor an ancient memory. What we think of God doesn't change the reality or magnanimous essence of His existence and authority. You can be on an airplane and choose not to believe there's a pilot, but it doesn't change the reality inside the cockpit.

Whether we live it or not -- whether we like it or not -- God "ought to be feared" (v. 11).

The lit match shouldn't brag of it's flame to the sun. The minnow best be careful challenging the whale.

Penny full of thoughts,
Perry Crisp

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cotton Candy Christianity

Too bad God doesn't give us a set of spiritual headphones when we enter the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ. They could sure come in handy. So many good-sounding, right-seeming voices clutter the airwaves like static while we strain to hear the truth.

The latest nonsense to up the static of confusion is the Oprah-endorsed "A New Earth," by Eckhart Tolle. Funny how the word "new" is always attached to old ideas that have never worked. New earth. New age. Nah...nothing new about it. It's the same old worn out "flash in the pan" stick figure of syncretic cultism that's been around since New Testament days.

Basically, you take a spiritual buffet table loaded with Buddha, Mohammed, Spiritism, Hinduism, esoteric philosophical fluff, transcendental meditation, and all the entrees of mysticism man has ever come up with as a substitute for truth, then you lay Jesus on the buffet table right next to that goulash and call it spiritual enlightenment.

And because Oprah is endorsing it, millions are gobbling it up. As you gorge yourself on this goulash, let me make a prediction: It won't satisfy. It won't last. It will tickle your taste buds for six months, but will not satisfy the hunger for truth that exists within. Don't be fooled by Cotton Candy Christianity.

How do I know this? Because God didn't wait for Mr. Tolle to write a book about truth. God already wrote one. What Mr. Tolle writes contradicts what God has already written. Long after "A New Earth" sits on old bookshelves next to the DaVinci Code and all other attempts to find an alternative to the truth, the Bible will still satisfy. It can do that only because it is the truth.

The problem with laying Jesus on the same buffet table as any of those other guys is Jesus won't stay there. Jesus either is who He claimed to be or He's not. If He's not, why would anyone follow Him? If He is, then what He claimed about Himself must be true. And Jesus claimed, "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life; no one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6, emphasis mine due to the emphatic nature of the definite article in the Greek language).

Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, doesn't belong on the buffet table with those guys because they're dead. He's not. At the scene of His resurrection, an incredible question was asked, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

About those spiritual headphones... God has given us a set. The voice of truth can clearly be heard in the Bible. Why rush to something that promises and won't deliver when that which always delivers on its promises is right in front of you?

The more truth you learn, the easier falsehoods are discerned.

Sticking to what will still be the #1 best-seller 50 years from now,
Perry Crisp

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Got Power?

In the summer of 1928, a terrible drought gripped West Texas. In the little town of Peacock, the church prepared for revival.

But it was hard for anyone to concentrate on revival. Their thoughts were consumed by the desperate need for rain. It hadn't rained for four long months. The blazing sun over Texas scorched the ground day after day with relentless heat.

Drinking water had to be shipped into Peacock by railroad tank cars. Crops were destroyed. Cattle lay dead beside empty waterholes.

Four days into the revival services, a group of sincere, repentant people humbled themselves before God and began to cry out to God for rain. In less than 24 hours, the rain came crashing down with incredible force. A victory over the drought had been won through prayer.

Think about it: Drought...Prayer...Rain.

Now look around you. Do you see evidence of a drought? Is there a famine in our land? The one I see is worse than that of 1928.

There IS a famine in this land -- but not of water or bread. A spiritual dearth is all around us. Dry souls crackle and waste away. Lost souls hear no trumpets of salvation.

Yet...there is little concern, little alarm. It is hardly noticed. It is rarely mentioned. Tears do not fall. Cries do not escape from the lips of those desperate for God to send a flood of revival to this land that she may return to the God of her history.

Have we become Samson with a haircut? Have we forfeited the power of God for the pleasures and comforts of man? Instead of beating the drums of retreat or waving the white flag of surrender, shouldn't we sound the alarm for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to fall powerfully before God in prayer?

Third graders are plotting against teachers, children are killing their parents, morality is now colored only in gray...

The slope we are on is steep and we, as a nation, have slipped. We are gaining speed and soon will be at the scene of our own horrific accident.

Let's not put together an investigation committee. Let's not expect congress to fix this. Let's not grab torches and go out into the night to find the monster who is demonizing our village. Let's fall to our knees in prayer, humility, and repentance.

Unless we do...we assist the monster. We aid our country's descent when we have access to the power of change, yet do not tap into it with every ounce of our faith.

Hear, believe, and apply the promise of Jesus:
"If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14).

Join the man of Acts 8:19 who said,
"Give me also this power!"

Sounding the Alarm,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beverly Hillbilly Boycott

I've been a Beverly Hillbillies fan all my life. But I've had it! I mean, seriously -- there are just too many inconsistencies. And some of the attitudes of those characters can be hard to tolerate.

I'm not making this up. Tell me how Jedd Clampett can shoot a fly off a wall 200 yards away but misses when he shoots at "some food" (no doubt, a big ole 'possum) and "up comes a bubbling crude." Then I'm supposed to believe that all that wealth required the hillbilly Clampett family to move to Beverly Hills and buy a mansion. Please! Anyone with that much money can live anywhere they want.

I'm not even going to go into all the manipulative attitudes of Granny and Mr. Drysdale. Jethro's a glutton and Ellie Mae hasn't shown evidence of a single permit for all those animals she keeps.

Sound silly? So do the excuses people make for not going to church.

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jesus...
Perry Crisp