Thursday, May 29, 2008

Birth Announcement

Life does not come with an eraser. It isn't even written in pencil. Our every word and deed leaks out in permanent ink. We can't unslap anyone or unsteal anything. Insults, slander, and gossip are never re-translated into compliments and kind words. None of our impure thoughts fall to the cutting room floor of our minds.

None of it can be erased...without Jesus. Thank God for the gift of His Son, Jesus. The moment we place our faith in Jesus, confessing our sins to Him, He wipes them away and makes them forever gone. Our sins are written in permanent ink, but because of Jesus, God takes the cross in His hand and uses it as an eraser across our hearts. Our permanent stains are no match for the powerful cleansing blood of Jesus.

Jesus not only makes us clean, He makes us new. He told Nick, "You must be born again." Paul told the Corinthians, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Before we are ever in the obituary column, we find our birth announcement in heaven's newspaper. Jesus gives us a fresh start!

It makes sense. Followers of Jesus follow Jesus. He was born, died, and rose again, defeating sin and death. When we invite Him into our lives, He takes us by the hand and leads us through our own "old self" funeral and "new self" resurrection. With His hand in ours, we are reborn free from sin's stain and death's claim.

Like a return trip to the buffet, leave the old stained plate on the table and get a new, clean one...compliments of Jesus.

Perry Crisp

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Empty Tanks

Four-year-old Andrew spilled something on the floor, sending his mother, Cathy, into a screaming tirade.

Andrew watched his mother have a fit and then said, "Mommy, you forgot to ask Jesus to help you be nice today, didn't you?"

It is so easy to do. Our bodies rebel at the sound of the alarm. We squeeze every second out of the snooze button. We rush through our morning rituals and swallow our barely-chewed breakfast on the way to work. The rest of the day keeps the same pace. The busyness never stops.

And the time with God never begins. Before we know it, we have spent another 24 hours without an eternal investment of time with our Father.

"He (Jesus) went up on the mountain by Himself to pray..." (Matthew 14:23). Luke wrote that Jesus "often" withdrew from others to pray. Every one of us needs time alone with God. We all need to ask Jesus to help us be nice. Even Jesus, the Son of God, needed to spend time with the Father.

We go through each day so quickly. But which is more important: Speed or direction? Under which circumstances are you able to see more: Zipping through traffic or taking a walk? That's what the Christian life is built upon: a refreshing walk between two friends.

Zipping through your day without spending time with God ends up zapping you of what you need for today and tomorrow. A van ran out of gas on the side of the road. The road-side assistant came to the rescue and noticed the van had two gas tanks. He asked the obvious question, "Are both tanks empty?"

"Both tanks? You mean, there are two?" The road-side assistant showed the owner of the van - no, it wasn't me - how to switch tanks and the van started right up. There's a difference between unavailable power and unappropriated power.

In Christ, you have all the power you need to survive and even thrive each day. It's up to you to appropriate it by taking that daily walk with Him.

Come apart with Christ so you don't come apart with anyone else,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scoffing in a Rain Coat

"God is no slouch when it comes to making and keeping a promise" (2 Peter 3:9, perryphrased version). Interview a few people on the street and you will discover that many do not believe in the return of Christ. They somehow feel that this particular promise has been swept under the rug or dropped into the useless drawer in the kitchen of life.

In other words...though God has kept all other promises, He won't keep this one. Peter found the same attitude when he interviewed people in his day. "Scoffers will come...saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?'" (2 Peter 3:3-4)

Peter answered the scoffers by repeating the phrase, "by the word of God" (vs. 5, 7). The same "word of God" that made earth suddenly appear in the cosmos will cause Jesus and a billion angels to pop through the clouds above us in an instant.

Scoff away! Join the ranks of Noah's critics who said it wouldn't rain. It rained anyway. Grab a picket sign that reads, "Return of Christ" with a ghostbuster zero over it. Scoff till your heart's content. He will come anyway.

If your plane was delayed, would you take a nap on the runway? Not likely. There's a difference between "delayed" and "not coming." Jesus has not canceled His appointment, nor is He late. He will return right on time. But the Father keeps delaying because He wants to save one more soul.

Peter explained why the scoffers arrived at such a conclusion: "...this they willfully forget" (v. 5). Willfully forgetting is not like forgetting your car keys. It is a purposeful amnesia that implies motive. It's the "I forgot" that parole officers often hear from parolees who don't check in.

Do you think the parole officer buys that line? Neither does God.

Willfully Aware,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This Far!

"Who am I, O Lord God...that You have brought me this far?" (1st Chronicles 17:16)

I am grateful for "this far" today. "This far" is so much farther than I could ever have imagined. "This far" is oceans deeper and mountains higher than a Christ-less Perry would have ever reached.

Normally, I'm looking ahead. I always want to keep going. I'm the chubby kid in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I want to eat the grass of God's grace, lick the candied flowers of His blessings, and dive into the chocolate river of His love.

But today, I pause with David to say,
"Thank you, God, for bringing me this far and blessing me this much."

My name is written permanently in Heaven's Hilton even though I don't deserve a tent outside the gates. My terribly abused and overdrawn sin account has reached depths of debt from which I could never recover. But "Paid in Full" is stained across my account with the precious and permanent blood of Jesus.

My past is forgiven. My future is secure. What else could I want? It doesn't matter. God gives me more anyway. Every day on the calendar of my earthly life I find boxes of gifts from God. I open His Word and read His promises. I pray and feel His presence.

It's as if He stays up all night shopping for something else to bless me with. And then gently nudges me awake each morning with a smile on His face to show me what He has prepared for me.

Why? David asked, "Who am I?" But that's irrelevant. It's who God is. That's why we've been brought this far.

Before I open today's undeserved boxes of blessings, I just want to stop, look back at the mountains of crinkled giftwrapping and the trophies of His blessings in my life, and say,
"This far is way farther than I ever dreamed. Thank You, Father. I owe it all to You."

Perry Crisp

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hope Does More Than Float

"Now hope does not disappoint..." (Romans 5:5).

Life can get us so far down that we want to get in the car and drive toward Arkansas just so we can feel like we're heading toward hope. Hope is one of the greatest four-letter words of our existence.

What is hope? It's more than a town in Arkansas. "Hope" made the top three list of those things which are most valuable and will abide forever: "faith, hope, and love" (1st Corinthians 13).

We know about false hope. It's that feeling you get in the first six hours of a diet. We also know that hope is not something you can live on exclusively. Nor is it something you can live without.

Hope is the airbag in the accidents of life. Hope is what compels us to hang on to clothes that no longer fit. Hope is the step we take when wearing shoes of faith. Yet even before that...hope is when we slip on the shoes of faith when the shoes of doubt are more comfortable and easier to slip into.

The New Testament gives a whole new dimension to hope. The "hope" of the English language is filled with iffy-ness. Hope implies a degree of the uncertain. The New Testament word for hope is quite un-iffy. It has no artificial ingredients of uncertainty. It is 100% confident. It is a happy anticipation of something good.

New Testament hope is the look on the face of the kid who took first place in his event at the Special Olympics just before being awarded his medal. He knows he won. His hope of the medal is all about anticipation, not speculation.

Colossians 1:27 says, "Christ in you (is) the hope of glory." If you have Christ, you have hope. Not the iffy kind. The certain kind. You don't need to drive toward Arkansas to find hope. Just open your Bible, open your heart, and open the arms of your soul to embrace the hope that is surely yours. Just believe.

Hopped up on Hope,
Perry Crisp

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Sixteen-Word Story

passing by
cried out
be quiet
cried more
stood still
came near
received sight
followed Him

I'm only giving you sixteen words because I want you to read this story in Luke 18:35-43. But oh, how those sixteen words talk! They tell more than just one man's story from long ago. They tell the story of everyone who has ever chosen to follow Christ.

PASSING BY - Sooner or later, everything passes your way. You will be exposed to the entire menu of life. People will pass by you. Ideas, philosophies, information, opportunities, temptations, doctrines, gimmicks, scams, pleasures...will all glide by like ducks at a shooting gallery. And one day - someday - Jesus will pass by you. Maybe He already has and your story has already been written beyond these first two words to the next two or ten words. But if not, be assured - Jesus WILL pass by you. Be ready. Don't miss it. Don't ignore it. Don't bite the apple you've been tossed from the orchard-keeper of lies.

CRIED OUT - We all cry out in our own way. It may not look or sound the same to the eye or ear, but the message of the heart is the same. Our emptiness and neediness causes our soul to weep.

BE QUIET - Just as sure as the entire menu of life will pass your way, you can expect with equal certainty that the maitre d' of life will shush you. You ask the wrong question and you will be shushed. You try to deal logically with the issues of life and you will be shushed. Go against the flow of society and you will hear the collective ssssshhhhhhh's of life. Sadly, the story ends here for many people. Jesus passes by and they cry out. But once shushed, they forever remain silent. They draw their filthy beggar's blanket around their shoulders and retreat to silently begging for hope.

CRIED MORE - But the heart that picks up the scent of eternal hope cannot be silenced! Don't be shushed by the world. Don't be ashamed to cry out like some helpless, vagrant soul. You are both. So am I. Had Jesus never passed by this planet, Venus should be renamed "Hope" because earth would be 25.7 million miles beyond it. But He did pass by. When the world holds its finger up in firm fashion to shush you, cry louder. Because what happens next is worth it.

STOOD STILL - He who was in motion became motionless. At the sound of the cry, He stopped. You cry, God stops. You call for Him, you get His attention. Every time. Jesus stood still. I remember the night He stood still for me. He was passing by my bed around midnight when I was fifteen. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I cried out to Him. He stopped. He stood still for me. He will stand still for you.

CAME NEAR - Jesus commanded that they bring the man of this story to Him. And the man came near. I don't know that we fully comprehend the depth of that statement. Do we realize all that it took for man to ever come near to God again once sin had entered the world? But there is a Bible truth written in James 4:8 that is true no matter where you put it in the Bible: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." Nothing else matters until you do. Let me say that again, but notice the word I emphasize. Nothing else matters until YOU do. Not your parents. Not your preacher. Not your president. Not your nation. You. The hope of your life boils down to you and Jesus...together.

RECEIVED SIGHT - There are different ways to see. We see the physical with our eyes, but everything else with our hearts and minds. "Receive" and "sight" are mentioned together three times in three verses. It was the greatest issue of this man's existence and Jesus gave him what he asked for...and more. His eyes were able to see, but they were not alone. His heart, his mind, and his soul received sight as well. Jesus mentioned the key to this idea of receiving sight: "your faith has made you well." What faith? I didn't see any faith. Did you? Oh I see it. I see it in the first thing the blind man did.

FOLLOWED HIM - The most challenging portion of our story lives in those two words. It is the challenge waiting for us the moment the alarm clock goes off. It is the daily, hourly, and moment-by-moment choice of life. Though I BEGAN following Him, am I still? Will I now? Will you? He gave us sight so we could see the path and follow His steps. Yet we are so tempted to look elsewhere. Follow Him. Keep writing your story. Don't let it end with anything less than the words of Jesus saying to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Two of the last three words of Luke 18 bring the perfect benediction to our story...

Perry Crisp