Monday, December 29, 2008

Hand Over Your Cup!

Daphne made her way around the table filling coffee cups and chatting with some of her regular morning customers at the diner. As she was about to fill the fourth cup, Mack told the punch line of a joke and everyone at the table roared with laughter.

Daphne was laughing so hard she didn't notice Clyde's hand covering the top of his coffee cup. Clyde didn't want coffee. But he got it anyway. Hot coffee hit his hand, splattered up his arm, and ran down the table into his lap. It must've been instant coffee because Clyde was drenched before he knew it.

"Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) is the daily challenge of every believer. The challenge is not due to the hesitancy of the Spirit, but to the hindrances of our own flesh. Like Clyde, our flesh gets in the way, makes a mess, and we get burned.

All the Spirit of God needs is an open, empty vessel. But too many times there's too much "u" in the "cUp."

Welcome to the table this morning. Have a seat. The Holy Spirit is pouring.

Who needs a refill?
Perry Crisp

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Joseph Christmas

The manger scene is familiar to us all. We can visualize the scene and the actors. There was a big star in the sky, but there were big stars at the barn, too. Jesus was the biggest of all. And of course, His mom has attained quite a following among our Catholic friends.

But what about Joseph? Where's his following? He was there that night. He had to endure his own labor pains as he stood by the side of his expecting wife whose expectation was not his own. He defended her purity. He packed the donkey and bravely guided the family to Bethlehem. He is the quiet hero of Christmas eve. Though Scripture makes it clear Joseph was not Jesus' father (that Jesus was divinely conceived), Joseph stood over the Baby Boy with pride that night.

The last we hear of Joseph is when Jesus was twelve. From then on, we only hear of Jesus' mother and brothers. The assumption is that Joseph died at a young age.

That thought strangely comforts me at Christmas. Maybe it will you, too. For at every Christmas with all the trees, trimmings, and tinsel; with all the laughter, joy, and celebration...there are loved ones not in attendance. Like Joseph, they left earth for an eternal home. Like Mary, at Christmastime, we miss them in our earthly home.

Every Christmas, there's a place for a person, but no person. We still want to wrap a package and put their name on it. They still sit at the table of our heart, though their chair at the dinner table is empty. Our ears strain to hear the laughter and singing of that voice that never leaves our soul.

There is a tradition among some Christian families to leave the Baby Jesus out of the manger scene until Christmas morning. Then on that morning, the family ceremoniously places the Baby Jesus in the scene to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas.

Maybe it's time to start a new tradition for those who've lost loved ones. Maybe we should, on Christmas Day, take Joseph from the manger scene and put him on a higher shelf, so that, even though his spot with the family is empty, his presence is still felt from above.

Have a Joseph AND Merry Christmas,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keep Roadkill Legal!

God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel saying, "I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one" (22:30).

I saw something recently that I never thought I would see in Texas. I was traveling down a two-lane road when I noticed both lanes of traffic were stopped ahead of me.

I thought maybe a child was crossing the road. Possibly a dog. Or perhaps I was being delayed by cat lovers protecting a wandering feline from people like me.

It wasn't a child or a dog or even a cat. It was an armadillo! Twelve cars were stopped so an armadillo could cross the road safely. I was amazed.

If you haven't been to Texas, Armadillos are to Texas highways what blankets were at Woodstock - they're everywhere! Armadillos are most commonly seen on the side of the road with all fours pointing toward heaven.

I've seen a few cars swerve to miss armadillos. I've seen cars aim for armadillos. But I'd never seen traffic stop for the shell-covered, lawn-terrorist...until now.

Can't you see the headlines? "Texans Join Forces to Save Armadillos." It won't be long now until I see a bumper sticker with a picture of an armadillo and the slogan,
"No More Roadkill!"

People today will stand in the gap for almost anything. Especially if it isn't human. They will place their bodies between trees and timber companies to keep the trees from being cut down. They will buy millions of acres to keep endangered species from becoming extinct. They will run a marathon to save whales or even attach bumper stickers to their $50,000 vehicles that read,
"I Brake for Armadillos!"

But who will stand in the gap for his neighbor? Who will step between sin in a friend and salvation in a Savior and become that bridge through whom an eternal connection is made?

Will you? If not, then who?

Standing in the gap - not shopping at it.
Perry Crisp

Monday, December 15, 2008

Do Over

"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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" - 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV).

Which of the following would be hardest to forgive?

1. A doctor who prescribes a laxative for your migraine.
2. A beautician who thought you said "shave" instead of "wave."
3. A store clerk who asks for a price check for your zit zapping cream over the intercom.
4. A preacher who preaches on good hygiene and uses you as an example of what NOT to do.

Would you make an appointment to see that doctor or beautician again? Not likely. Could you ever show your face (pardon the pun) in that store again? I doubt it. Would you ever go back to hear that preacher again or would you rather sign up for acupuncture with horse needles?

There are not many places on earth where a person can expect a second chance. But there is a place in heaven. God forgives His children and gives them a second chance.

Whenever you fail God, He does not change His heart toward you nor abandon you. He waits patiently for you to return and repent.

A sin against God means we have moved away from Him, not the other way around. When that happens (and it will/does/has), God wants us to realize our error, return to Him in prayer, and turn away from the sin that moved us away from Him in the first place.

I know it's only Monday, but have you failed God yet? Return to Him with a humble heart and a desire to change. God will hear you, forgive you, and draw you close to His side once again.

A second-chance God begets second-chance children. Is there someone who needs a second chance from you? Follow your Father's example and forgive.

On my 2,456th chance...this year!
Perry Crisp

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Mouse, Not a Dinosaur

Barney, the mouse, found a peculiar device under a cabinet. The young rodent decided to push it out from under the cabinet for a better look.

He didn't know what it was. But he had an idea what it could be. He scurried back to the nest to get his family and friends.

"Come see!" he squeaked. Everyone followed the excited mouse. When they arrived at the peculiar device, they all gasped.

"Where did you find that?" asked his brother.

"I didn't find it," snapped Barney, "I made it."

"Wow! What is it?" asked Mikey, one of Barney's friends.

Barney hesitated, "It's a --- um ---it's a spring-a-popper!"

"What does it do?" inquired Aunt Betty.

"Well," answered Barney, making it up as he went along. "You jump on that yellow thing there and that spring in the middle pops you high up in the sky."

"Cool!" Mikey was impressed. "Can I try it?"

"Sure," said Barney.

"Wait a minute," interrupted Barney's dad. "Have you tested this 'spring-a-ma-jig' to make sure it works?"

"Of course!" Barney lied again. "Watch this!"

Barney's lies were so believable that he even convinced himself. He cleared a path to get a good running start, ran as fast as he could, jumped high to get a good bounce off the yellow thing, and...


The spring-a-popper sprung in reverse. Instead of lofting Barney high into the air, it pinned him permanently to the yellow thing.

Barney's "spring-a-popper" was really a mouse trap.*

Acts 5 tells the story of Ananias and his attempt to deceive others. He died because he lied. He, too, was caught in his own trap.

When we attempt to deceive others we usually end up like Barney and Ananias -- deceiving ourselves, becoming entangled in our own deception, and paying a price for it.

"Father, guide my heart away from all temptations to deceive."

Yours True-ly,
Perry Crisp

*No animals were actually harmed in the writing of this devotional.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Tallest in the Land

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were forced away from their homes in Jerusalem and chosen to serve the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar (pronounced neb-you-kud- Oh, forget it. Just call him Neb-nez).

Shad, Shac, and Ed were stripped of their Hebrew clothes, language, and culture, and required to learn and live the customs of their pagan captors. Even their Hebrew names were replaced with Babylonian names.

King Neb-Nez built a ninety-foot image of gold for his subjects to worship. Ninety feet? Talk about sticking out like a sore thumb! That's some serious obelisk bling. EVERYONE was forced to worship this enormous idol, including the captured Jews.

In the spirit of reverse musical chairs, any time the citizens and slaves of Babylon heard music, they were to stop, drop, and worship the golden image. Failure to do so meant death by fire. It was Babylon's twisted version of American Idol.

Once everyone understood the rules of Babylonian Idol, the king hit the play button on his 8-track tape player (it was a long time ago), and everyone hit the dirt.

Well, almost everyone.

Shad, Shac, and Ed were the only three people in the country still standing. They refused to bow.

The king was told of their refusal to give in to posture-pressure and confronted the three rebels with an ultimatum: "Bow or burn."

They opted for the oven. And in the eyes of this "One-true-God" follower, they stood taller than the image they refused to worship.

As they were thrown into the blazing oven, the king thought about what he would do with his first batch of Hebrew charcoal. But they didn't burn.

The king rubbed his eyes at what he saw when he looked into the oven. Not only did they not burn, they had a guest! Three men were thrown into the fire, but four men were engaged in a flame-broiled conversation that must have been something to see and hear. God joined His loyal followers in the oven and removed the power of the flames.

When the king called them out of the fire, neither their clothes nor their hair had been changed by the fire. Why, they didn't even get a good tan!

The faith of these three men made a believer out of the king. Neb-nez learned that he could change their clothes, address, language, and names -- but he could not change their hearts.

The sad part of this story is that, out of all the Hebrew captives, only three stood up for their God.

How about you? Will you stand up for God when everyone else assumes the posture of compromise?

Crisp, not burned...
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who's in the Driver's Seat?

A man hauled his truck into the shop to see what was wrong with it. After giving the truck a thorough inspection, the mechanic told the truck owner that the engine and transmission were shot. The battery, carburetor, and wiring were missing. The brakes were out. And rust had eaten a hole in the gas tank.

"But why won't it start?" asked the truck owner. "The key still fits, the doors open, and the scent in my pine fresh deodorizer is still strong."

The mechanic looked at the truck owner like he was an idiot. A deserving look...wouldn't you agree?

Yet so many Christ-believers operate their Christianity in similar form. "But I belong to a church, I can quote John 3:16, and I have my own pew! Why am I not getting anywhere in my walk with Christ?"

A believer who tries to live the Christian life without surrendering to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit might also deserve the "idiot look."

An automobile needs an engine, transmission, battery, carburetor, wiring, brakes, and gas to fulfill its function. And a believer needs the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to function effectively as a Christian.

Where does a believer find all these characteristics? "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

They can only be found in the Spirit of God. Where is the Spirit? According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit lives inside the believer. So, if Christ is your personal Savior, His Spirit lives inside you. And if the Spirit is inside you, guess what else is inside you? All you need to have a meaningful, productive walk with Christ. Just ask God to let His Spirit live through you today.

The Holy Spirit is the only one with a driver's license when it comes to the Christian life. So give up the keys, slide out of the driver's seat, and enjoy the ride.

Tuned-up when I Turn it Over to Him,
Perry Crisp

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Anchor Holds

There are many reasons why an anchor may not hold: The water may be too deep, the rope may be too short, or the anchor may be too small for the size of the boat or the strength of the wind.

Those are the less embarrassing reasons.

There are other reasons why anchors don't hold. I have discovered them all by myself. For example, an inadequate knot tends to result in the anchor taking up permanent residence as a prop on the set of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Also, forgetting to pull up the anchor when moving to another part of the lake can cause premature anchor detachment. And then there's the moment when you and your fishing buddy both say, "I thought YOU were bring the anchor!"

In life, we often find ourselves in need of an anchor that holds. We occasionally end up in "deep water" or fighting against the wind and waves of life only to discover that our anchor is insufficient. Or we depend on things or people that just aren't secure, reliable, or honest.

There is one anchor that holds in this life no matter how deep the water, no matter how high the waves, and no matter how strong the wind. This anchor is firmly and eternally secure, reliable, and trustworthy.

The anchor that holds is Jesus.

When we put our trust in Jesus Christ, the anchor of hope is dropped, secured, and immovable for all eternity.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." (Hebrews 6:19, NIV).

Anchored in Faith,
Perry Crisp