Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last Minute Gifts

Now is the time for last minute gifts. The time of the holiday when folks all run out at the same time to buy more stuff to stuff the stocking or because they forgot Uncle Fred's gift...again. Or Aunt Gertie just called and said she's coming to your house for Christmas. Oh joy!

Last minute gifts. Aren't you glad Jesus wasn't a last minute gift? Jesus, the gift of God to the world, wasn't an afterthought. The gift of Christ to the world was most anticipated. More than 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled with precision by the life of Jesus. 300!

Scholars and mathematicians have calculated the odds. Set 300 aside for a moment. If Jesus had only fulfilled 8 of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, the odds would be 1 out of 10 to the 17th power (a one followed by 17 zeros).

Try wrapping your mind around it this way: Mark one silver dollar with a marker and hide it in a stack of silver dollars two feet deep that covers the entire state of Texas. Blindfold someone and have them pick the marked silver dollar at random on the first try. How do you like the odds? And that's only 8 of the prophecies. The odds of one man fulfilling 60 -- not 300 -- but 60 of these prophecies would be 1 out of 10 to the 895th power.*

Brain freeze!

Jesus was not a last minute gift. Unless you think of it in a much different way. The minute before I accepted the gift of Jesus as my personal Savior was the last minute I lived only for myself. The next minute was the first minute I began living for God. Between that last minute and that next minute, time met eternity in my heart. I was forgiven. The transaction for my soul was ratified. I was born again.

I didn't embrace a religion. I didn't pick up a new set of meditation mantras. I didn't hold myself real tight, embrace the inner child (mine's ADD...he won't hold still long enough to be embraced), or will my way into right living. I gave up. I surrendered. I quit. I died. Went into the tomb of my soul and found Jesus there. He wasn't dead. He was alive. And He was giving out new life! I resurrected from that tomb a new person -- alive only because Christ lives in me.

How difficult is it to describe new life to someone who is still spiritually dead? Probably as difficult as a butterfly trying to convince a caterpillar about the change in his life. All you can do is spread your wings, fly, and testify!

Don't wait until the last minute. You don't know which one it is any more than a blindfolded person knows which silver dollar is marked. Choose this minute to be the last minute you live without Jesus.

See you in a minute.
Perry Crisp

*Statistics provided in "A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days," by Rabbi Jonathan Bernis, p. 81-82.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm a Kneedy Fella

"Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices. Oh night divine..." You know the Christmas hymn, don't you? "O Holy Night" was written in 1847 and was quite possibly the first song ever played on the radio. On Christmas Eve, 1906, Reginald Fessenden broadcast the first AM radio program which included him playing "O Holy Night" on the violin.

The lyrics are powerful. Yet, I wonder if anyone other than the person being shoved to the ground at a shopping mall ever falls to his or her knees any more at Christmas.
Falling on your knees is not a glamorous thing to do. The knee itself isn't much to look at. It's just a knobby saucer of bone designed to... Hmmm.

What great purpose DOES the knee serve? Obviously, it's a great source of humor when someone is shivering and you can see their knees quivering. Sure, it comes in handy when you sit at that part of the table where the table legs jut out and you scoot your chair up without realizing it. And I can attest to the importance of the knee when your brother's baseball bat "accidentally" (let's all roll our eyes in unison) slips out of his hands.

But seriously -- why is there a round bone floating around in there at that particular location? Does it serve any great purpose other than to make embarrassing popping noises?

The knee isn't given much respect in our anthropomorphic colloquialisms either. You'll never hear someone say, "Now, there's a man who can stand on his own two knees." No one ever shouts, "Let's give her a knee!" Noooo. The foot and the hand get the glory. What does the knee get?

The knee gets humility. If a football player "takes a knee," it means he would rather surrender than run with the ball. When a man is looking for forgiveness after saying or doing something really stupid and is in jeopardy of wearing (instead of eating) his dinner, he drops to his knees to beg forgiveness. The beggar pleads for help from his knees. The maid scrubs the floor while on her knees. All humiliating tasks for those calcified cups.

Oh, but the knee does enjoy a few moments in the spotlight. After scoring a touchdown, the football player drops to his knee to give thanks. The young man in love causes the woman he loves to gasp when he falls to his knee to propose marriage.

But the most powerful moment for our knees is when we fall on our knees to worship and adore Almighty God. In God's kingdom, the way up is down. Before you can ever rise in strength, you must kneel in weakness.

Jesus came humbly. He chose the horse trough over the Hilton. Christ IS Christmas. He is the Savior born to bring the hope of new life to all who will come to Him. So, somewhere at some point, would you clear out a moment to fall on your knees, listen again to those angel voices, and remember that night divine?

Obviously, some are not physically able to get on their knees. That's okay. It is the heart that makes the difference in prayer and worship, not the knees. The point is --- simply discover the power of a humble moment before God.

"'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth..."

Jesus is all I Kneed,
perry crisp

Monday, December 7, 2009

Life Puzzles

Jeff sat on his bed and turned the pages of the worn out, paperback Bible he had found a few hours earlier on a bench just outside the courthouse. He and a few other inmates from the county jail were frequently required to pick up trash around the courthouse. Jeff found the Bible and asked if he could keep it.

Lance, the officer in charge of keeping an eye on Jeff and the other members of the clean-up detail, looked the Bible over and handed it back to Jeff, "You can keep it if you want. It looks like it's sat out here for quite a while. There's plenty of Bibles in better shape than that back at the jail."

Jeff thanked Lance and tucked the Bible under his arm. Jeff knew about the other Bibles at the jail, but something about this Bible intrigued him. He had been alone with his thoughts for countless hours prior to finding this Bible, wondering how he could make some sense out of his life.

It was as if his life was a puzzle with a huge piece missing. He kept trying different pieces, thinking he'd found the missing piece time and time again with drugs, alcohol, and relationships. But as he placed each one of those pieces into his life puzzle, they all eventually ripped themselves out, leaving a bigger chunk of his puzzle incomplete. As strange as it seemed, finding this Bible tapped into Jeff's mind with a question, "Could this book be the answer to finding the piece I'm missing?"

Jeff didn't know if it was or not. But the way he looked at it, he had plenty of time on his hands to find out. And Jeff had quite an imagination. He approached this Bible as if he were a treasure seeker who had found an ancient map to a treasure chest.

He turned the pages, scanning...searching. He soon realized it would take quite a while to read the whole thing front to back. He looked down the index, hoping something would jump out at him. His finger stopped on Luke.

Luke was the name of Jeff's grandfather. A preacher, now retired. Jeff's grandfather was the one person in his life who had loved him unconditionally. Jeff turned to the book of Luke. This particular Bible was the Contemporary English Version with bold captions, like newspaper headlines, describing each section. Jeff scanned past the first three chapters. When he came to chapter four, the following bold caption caused his heart to jump, "The People of Nazareth Turn Against Jesus."

"Now THAT I can identify with!" Jeff thought to himself. Deep down inside, Jeff knew that he was responsible for where he was. But Jeff didn't get there without a few incidents in his life that contributed to a deep anger and resentment. He often felt like others had turned against him.

Jeff was shocked to know that HE could identify with JESUS. Or better yet, that Jesus could understand what Jeff felt. That thought drew Jeff to read beneath that caption. It was there that he found these words:

"Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read, 'The Lord's Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners..." Jeff stopped. Leaned closer to the words. He read those words again, "The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners."

Jeff was now captivated by this book. He continued, "'...to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers...'" Without realizing that he spoke outloud, he said, "That's me!" Someone napping nearby raised up and asked, "Did you say something?"

Jeff realized then that he had spoken outloud. "No. Nothing," he said. "Go back to sleep."

Jeff kept reading. He discovered that Jesus was talking about himself. Jesus was the one Isaiah had written about. Jesus could set Jeff free. But how?

Jeff didn't find the answer to that right away. He folded the top of page 1060 in his "new" Bible and laid down to think. He fell asleep.

Over the next couple of days, Jeff kept looking in that Bible for the answer. "How can Jesus set me free?" He couldn't find it. One night, he woke up in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep. He remembered something his Grandpa Luke once told him, "Jeff, if you can't go back to sleep, just lay there and pray. God's up all night. Just start talking to him and eventually you'll go back to sleep."

Jeff didn't know how to talk to God, but he did it anyway. Two words came out of his mouth, "God...how?" Tears rolled down the sides of his face. Just a few, at first. But once the tear pump was primed, out they gushed. All of Jeff's anger came out in sobs stifled into a pillow.

He fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, he picked up his Bible again. It fell open to John 8. Another bold caption leaped off the page, "The Truth Will Set You Free." Just under that caption, Jeff read the words of Jesus, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

What truth? Jeff scrambled back through the previous seven chapters. He was beginning to learn who this Jesus truly was...is. When he caught up to chapter 8 again, he kept reading until he got to chapter 14. The life puzzle pieces began to fall like manna from heaven...

"Don't be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me" (John 8:1). A huge puzzle piece fell into place. In Jeff's heart and mind, it seemed like lights were starting to come on and darkness was being driven away.

Then he read Jesus' words in verse 6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life!"

Suddenly, it became clear. The truth that would set Jeff free was Jesus! If Jeff would believe in and trust Jesus, he would become a free man. Not free from a county jail. Free on the inside...where true freedom exists.

Jeff got on his knees while others around the jail gave him puzzled glances. Jeff prayed, "Jesus, I believe in God and in You. Please forgive me and set me free. I'm not much, but You can have me. I want You to take my life and make something of it."

The prayer was answered. Jeff's life was no longer an unfinished puzzle, but a clear picture of what it means to be truly free. Jeff carried that Bible with him everywhere he went. It was so worn out, others just had to ask about it. Jeff was glad to tell them how much like that Bible he was. To everyone else, Jeff didn't seem worth much. Some folks thought he should just be discarded. But Jesus found Jeff, picked him up, tucked him under His arm, and now carries Jeff everywhere He goes so that he can tell his story and help others find the missing pieces to their life puzzle.

As a writer, it is easy for me to make up a Jeff story and feel good about it. As a Christian, I need to realize that there is a world filled with Jeffs and Jeff puzzles. When the Jeffs of this world are set free, will they find love, acceptance, and ministry in our churches? In my heart? Our challenge is simple. Love who Jesus loves. Accept who Jesus accepts. It doesn't matter whether you find Jesus in a pew or a prison. We all need the same grace and mercy.

Don't look for an "X" on the treasure map of life. Look for a cross.
Perry Crisp

Monday, November 30, 2009

Walk This Way

God did a pretty cool thing when He changed Jacob's name to Israel. He could have made it simpler and changed Jacob's name to Roller Coaster because Jacob's entire life story was filled with ups and downs.

Jacob started life in second place, but he didn't like it. He was the second twin out of the womb, but had his hand on his brother's heel. Before his first breath of oxygen, he was caught red-handed trying to cheat. He was meant to be second, but did everything he could to become first.

I do the same. Do you?

The name "Jacob" means "supplanter." To "supplant" is to try to force your way past someone else, even if they were there first. He was a line-jumper. He was a pusher and a shover. If you shop at all this Christmas season, you will be an eyewitness to supplanting. Jacob tried to get a hand up on life from the moment he was born.

I have the same nature. Do you?

Jacob's story follows a pattern. He would commit a low-down despicable act of selfishness and greed. Then he would follow that up with a surprising act of humility, brokenness, and self-sacrifice. One minute he was cheating, arguing, and fighting with his family and neighbors. The next minute he was blessing, worshipping, and obeying God.

Jacob is the worst and best of us.

Jacob IS us.

Israel IS us.

Isaac's twin boy is appropriately named both Jacob (supplanter) and Israel (prince with God). He had the capacity to walk deep within his lower nature and soar to great heights within his higher nature. He is the essence of the conflict that rages within us to battle our selfishness and surrender to God's dominance in our lives.

But that's not what I love most about Jacob. What I love most about Jacob is his limp. After his pivotal wrestling match with God ("The Rock" of Ages), Jacob received both a blessing and a limp.

We all limp. But oh, how we try to hide it. "What? Me? Limp? Ha! That's not a limp. It's a strut!"


You limp. I limp. I struggle with God. You struggle with God. I can be sadly supplantive. So can you. And yet, through God's personal touch, I can be surprisingly sincere.

"He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him" (Genesis 32:25). We cannot supplant God. When our selfishness soars to such heights, God pokes a finger in our hip and we forever limp. Then, when we humbly return to God and surrender our lives to His will and His ways, God touches our heart, and our spirit soars.

Just after Jacob received his blessing and his limp, he returned to his twin brother, Esau, from whom he had stolen the family inheritance. This time, Jacob didn't supplant. He surrendered. Forgiveness replaced bitterness. The broken bond between brothers was repaired with Jacob's brokenness.

Had an artist ever sat down with Jacob as his subject, we would have never noticed the Mona Lisa. Yet, I see the painting anyway in my mind's eye. Jacob forever stands (albeit a bit awkwardly) as the pinnacle pose of humanity.

And the subliminal message we would all do well to see in that portrait is this: Limping is okay.

I limp, therefore I'm blessed...or is it the other way around?
Perry Crisp

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Been There Again

You knew it was coming. You probably expected it sooner. So here are some random thoughts on my trip to Israel. It is overwhelming to even attempt to process what the trip meant to me.

Jet lag and emotional lag have wrapped a huge lock around my keyboard up to this point. Maybe God wanted me to take time to process what I experienced for myself before sharing it with others.

I can tell you that a trip to the Holy Land for anyone is a worthwhile investment. For a Jew or a Christian, the value is multiplied and magnified. It reaches beyond history into a personal, spiritual, and emotional pilgrimmage. As a pastor, to walk the land that holds the stories I've studied, taught, and preached for 30 years turned me into a one-man tear factory.

For your own well-being, I am going to limit myself to my top three favorite places and/or moments in the land of Israel.

First, the Garden of Gethsemane. I was immediately surprised at how close the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane were to the city of Jerusalem. It is just across the Kidron Valley. I already knew that. But I'm from Texas. A Texan would have never called that a valley. Gully or ravine, maybe. Possibly even a ditch. But a valley? Let's just say it was a very narrow valley. To walk from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives would be like walking across a football field (from sideline to sideline, not end zone to end zone).

In today's Garden of Gethsemane, there is a church. Where most churches would have an altar, this church has a large rock jutting up out of the floor. This church was built around this rock. It is called the Rock of Agony. It is a place for followers of Christ to remember how Jesus agonized over what was about to take place. He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, take this cup from me."

Jesus wasn't afraid of a cup. He wasn't really even afraid of a cross. What Jesus did NOT want to experience was the part of the Father's plan that involved the sins of the world being placed upon His shoulders. Jesus had never known sin. Yet when He was placed on that cross, the sin of the world was placed on Him so that His death would be an eternal payment for all sin.

It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that He surrendered to the cup of our sin. It was there that He said, "Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done." His surrender came through great agony as His sweat glands and capillaries joined together. Mini explosions of bloody sweat trickled down the face of Jesus...because of me.

I knelt at that rock, placed my hand on it, and cried tears of contrition and sorrow for the awful price of my terrible debt.

Second, the Garden Tomb next to Gordon's Calvary. Whether these were the actual sights of the crucifixion and empty tomb of Jesus, only God knows for certain. A case could certainly be made for it. The important thing to me was to be there...again. In so many ways, I was there 2,000 years ago. When Jesus died on that cross, He died for me. He died in my place to pay my debt. When He arose, He arose with special gifts. It was there that I received the gift of victory over sin and the gift of an eternal home in heaven.

It felt like I had returned home to visit the place where I was born spiritually. Although I had accepted Christ as my personal Savior in Hawkins, Texas in 1978, the transaction that made it possible took place long before that, just outside Jerusalem. It was a great feeling to see my spiritual birthplace.

Third, the Sea of Galilee. It is actually a freshwater lake. It reminded me a lot of where I live now at Lake Fork. I felt a connection to Jesus in that sense. Most of His ministry took place around the Sea/Lake of Galilee. Capernaum was His ministry base. He called fishermen to be His followers. Having been where Jesus was, I can see why Jesus chose to spend so much time there. There was just something about walking the shoreline, taking a boat ride, and gazing out over the Sea of Galilee that brought a sense of peace to me.

It's like I connected with Jesus my Savior in Jerusalem, and then connected with Jesus my Friend in Galilee.

I've made it very hard on myself so as not to make it hard on you. I could tell you of baptizing in the Jordan River, floating in the Dead Sea, standing on top of Masada, the Mount of Beatitudes, Mount Carmel, and along the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm sure, these stories will ooze out of me in future blogs.

But for now, it is enough to report to you that your Bible is not an old, outdated book of history on ink and paper. It is a story of truth that took place in a land still very much alive. The land of Israel tells the old, old story as fresh as this morning's newspaper and as vividly as your back yard.

Forever Grateful,
Perry Crisp

The above picture: The writer in me could not pass up an opportunity to "ride a column." Get it? Oh, come on. I know it's corny.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Non-Fiction Fish Story...Really...I Promise

Fishermen tell three types of stories: 1) True stories, 2) Lies, and 3) Stories that start out true, but grow in creativity and length. The size of the fish, the bait, the boat, or the waves may increase with each telling.

The following story falls under category number one. It is 100% non-fiction. A few years ago, I stumbled onto an opportunity to fish at a pond and I was unprepared. It was a family get-together, cookout, reunion thing. They mentioned the pool to swim in, but failed to mention the pond to fish in. So there I was...bypassing the pool to contemplate the fish population of the pond.

The urge to fish was strong. But first I had to hunt. In the garage attic of our family reunion hosts, I found a rod and reel. The rod and reel had a cork and a hook. Fantastic! But I had no bait. I rummaged around for a fishing lure of any kind and found none.

The reunion hosts lived in a subdivision within a city. They had a well-manicured lawn (about as big as a phone booth) and a few tiny flower beds. Similar houses surrounded the large pond. I resisted the urge to dig up the flower beds in search of worms, but I needed some kind of bait.

A thought came to mind. I quickly hid the fishing pole and went back to where the humans were grazing around a food table filled with sandwiches, chips, and dip. It was there that I found the bait I had hoped for: bologna! Pronounced "ba-lo-ney," bologna is a refined slab of delicious round steak. It's an aquired taste. It's also a word commonly used by those who just heard a politician speak.

This was a rather fancy affair, so the sandwiches were trimmed of bread crust and cut up into tiny squares. I guess rich folk can't eat a whole sandwich. Trying not to draw attention to myself, I stuffed a few sandwich squares into my mouth and a couple into my pockets.

I chatted with a neice or two and headed back to the garage where I had stashed the rod and reel. I tried to make my way to the pier that went out over the pond unnoticed, but a couple of youngsters in the pool saw me and followed.

I tore off a piece of bologna and put it on the hook. Almost immediately, the cork started bobbing up and down. It wasn’t long before I caught a small perch. With a few more pieces of bologna, I caught a few more perch. But I'm not much of a perch guy. It was sorta fun catching them, but it didn't satisfy the fisherman in me nearly as much as a bass would.

When I started running low on bologna, an idea came to me. I caught a tiny perch that was no bigger than the palm of my hand, took the hook out of the perch’s mouth and stuck it through his (or her) back under the dorsal fin. I cast my live bait with baloney-breath out into the pond.

The perch made the cork bob up and down as it tried to swim away from the hook in it's back. Then the cork went straight down and disappeared! Whoa baby! The fight was on!

In order to keep this story on the non-fiction level, I will admit that when I reeled in the bass, he was not a wall-hanger (for the outdoor illiterate, that means he wasn't a big fish). The bass weighed a little over ten -- I mean, two pounds. But it was the way that I caught the bass that made it so much fun. Thankfully, I have witnesses.

Let's get out of the pond for a minute and into the parabolic significance of this story. Isaiah 25:8 predicts the atoning death of Christ on the cross and says, "He will swallow up death forever." Paul quotes this prophetic statement in 1st Corinthians 15:54 to reinforce the fact that Jesus saved us from the curse of eternal death.

With those Scriptures in mind, think of the Christian as the bologna, the perch as death, and the bass as Jesus. Before Jesus died on the cross, we (humans) were dangling on a hook without hope. Death feasted on us and continually swallowed us up. When Jesus died on the cross, He looked like another bologna-victim of death. But while in the grave, God removed the hook from Jesus, stuck it in death, and when Jesus rose from the dead, He swallowed death, like the bass that swallowed the perch, and ended death's pursuit of all who believe in Jesus.

To the unbeliever, it looks like death swallows life. But the believer knows it isn’t so. Death doesn’t swallow the Christian. Christ swallows death and gives the Christian eternal life!

Hooked on Jesus,
Perry Crisp

Monday, October 26, 2009

See For Yourself

For as long as I can remember, my dad has talked about two important places: Israel and Heaven. Dad has visited the first place. Mom resides in the second. One is just as real as the other.

My Dad went to Israel when I was just a child, but I'll never forget hearing his report to the church when he returned. His pictures were made into tiny picture squares called "slides" that fit into a carousel projector. I marveled at Masada. I was captured by the Via Dolorosa. I was wide-eyed when my eyes beheld Golgotha through the pictures.

Seeing those pictures made it all more real. All those stories I'd heard all my life came to life because my dad was there! He saw it! He walked where Jesus walked. He shed tears where Jesus shed blood.

There has always been a dream and a desire in my heart to go to Israel one day. But like Heaven, I always assumed I would be an old man before I saw it. But we serve a God who blesses us with occasional unexpected surprises.

Due to the generosity of someone I've never met, I will see Israel sooner than expected. Expect no devotionals from me next week. November 1-10th, I'll be walking where Jesus walked. I'll be crying where Jesus was dying. My hands will be raised at the site where His body did the same thing. My eyes will see in panoramic fashion what they once saw through tiny picture squares.

I've talked about the Sea of Galilea from behind a pulpit. I will soon sail across it in a boat. I've told the story of Jesus feeding thousands with a young boy's small lunch on a hillside. In a few days, I will sit on that same hill, breathe that same air, and become that little boy. Who knows? I may even break out a balogna sandwich to "christen" the moment.

In short, I'm going to Israel! My ticket has been purchased. My way has been paid. I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Someone I never met gave sacrificially for me to go. I could never express enough gratitude to the giver of such a marvelous gift.

Sound familiar? The two places my dad always talked about have now intertwined in my life. I'm going to Israel. But, I'm going to Heaven, too! My ticket has been purchased. My way has been paid. I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Someone sacrificed for me before we ever met. I will never be able to thank Him enough for His gift of eternal life.

Though I haven't met the benefactors who purchased my trip to Israel, I have met the One who purchased my ticket to Heaven. His name is Jesus. He gave His life on the cross on Golgotha's hill to open the door of Heaven for you and me. You may or may not ever see Israel. I hope you will have that privilege one day. But the far greater need of your soul is to know that you are going to Heaven. Your way has been paid.

You can pick up your ticket at the foot of the cross. Bow your heart before Jesus. Admit that you are a sinner in need of His saving grace. Ask Him to forgive you personally. Then, invite Him into your life. Accept Him and the sacrifice He made on the cross for you. With all your heart, mind, and soul give yourself completely to the One who gave Himself for you.

Did you? Have you? I hope and pray you have. If so, Mom and I will see you in Heaven.

Just as my dad saw the land of Israel and reported what he saw back to us, my mom did the same with Heaven. Days before the Lord took her home, Mom laid in her hospital bed and started waving her hands in the air as if she were conducting an orchestra.

Dad asked her what she was doing. She said, "Can't you hear it?"

"Hear what?"

"The music..."

"No, honey. I can't."

"Oh, it's beautiful! I've never heard anything like it!"

If you can't be in Israel this next Sunday morning, come to Lake Fork Baptist Church in East Texas. While I'm going to the place my dad talked a lot about, he will be preaching in the place I've talked a lot about. How good is God? God is good all the way through. All the day long.

Israel & Heaven Bound (separate trips, you understand)...
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Besides Humans...

Are humans unique among the living creatures of the earth? Of course, the Bible answers that question with a holy "Duhhhh!"

Genesis 1-2 explain the creation of the world, including animals and humans. It reveals two important facts: 1) We are the only living creatures said to have been created in the image of God, and 2) we are the only living creatures said to have been given mouth-to-mouth from God to jumpstart our kind (Genesis 2:7).

The Psalmist wrote that God made man a little lower than the angels and gave humans dominion over everything on earth (Psalm 8:4-6). In Matthew 6:26, Jesus used an example of how God takes care of the birds to show that God certainly cares for us humans, too. Then He asked a follow-up rhetorical question, "Are you not of more value than they?"

Since there are readers of this blog who feel their intelligence rises far above those of us who believe the Bible, let's ask some more questions. If you honestly look at humans compared to all other species, you will not find one of them that does the stuff we do. So, here we go...

Besides humans, who else does all this stuff?

1. Wears clothes.
2. Builds everything from dog houses to enormous football stadiums, skyscrapers, and outer space apartments.
3. Invents everything from singing birthday cards to nuclear missiles.
4. Sings karaoke.
5. Videotapes themselves singing karaoke.
6. Forces their family and friends to watch the videotape of themselves singing karaoke.
7. Flies through the air in a metal tube called an airplane.
8. Reads.
9. Clips their own toenails.
10. Wipes their own.........nose.
11. Provides for the well-being of other species.
12. Buys and sells goods.
13. Offers warranties on purchases.
14. Hides loopholes on warranties.
15. Commits suicide. (Okay, so maybe lemmings are an exception here. But do they KNOW they are committing suicide? Or do they just keep re-electing dumb leadership and follow blindly? Isn't it possible that the lemmings last words are, "Oh, snap!")
16. Digs up bones of other species, as well as their own, to examine and analyze them instead of gnaw on them? (Ribs at the bar-b-q place are not dug up)
17. Performs surgery.
18. Cooks food before eating.
19. Cries when slicing onions.
20. Slices onions.
21. Can't find keys.
22. Has keys they can't find.
23. Smokes.
24. Blushes. (Or, at least, once had the capacity to do so).
25. Gets goose bumps. (Makes you wonder if other species get people bumps).
26. Bothers with tombstones and cemeteries.
27. Puts "Humans aren't the only species on the planet...they just act like it" magnets on their refrigerators.
28. Has refrigerators.
29. Replaces parts that quit working: Dentures, glasses, knees, hearing aids, spouses, etc.
30. Comes up with lists of their own uniquenesses.
31. Posts blogs and articles on the internet in an attempt to refute the uniquenesses of humans.

I find that last one fascinating. There are actually websites with articles and blogs piously pointing out that there are no uniquenesses that separate humans from other creatures. Yet, what other creature posts blogs or writes articles? I love the fact that "moron" finishes off the word, "oxymoron" in this case, don't you?

Face it. Humans are unique. You can trust Wikipedia or you can trust the Word of God. You can trust the most recent opinions of humanity's collective brilliance (which keeps changing every month) or you can trust the unchanging Word of God that has stood the test of time.

God created you with a purpose. You're not a lemming. You're not a cultured ape. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who loves you and wants you to take a few honest steps in His direction.

I'm not a preacher because I figured out something smart by observation. I'm a preacher because I've found something real by application and participation. When I gave my heart and life to God through Jesus Christ, He changed my life.

32. Has his or her heart and life completely reborn through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Perry Crisp

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Every Day Should Be National Day of Prayer...Yep, it's That Bad

Samuel was frustrated. He had put up with Israel's disobedience and hard-hearted attitude for years. He had every reason under heaven to throw up his hands and walk away from the stubborn, rebellious nation.

Sam asked Israel for a list of all the ways he had mistreated them as a nation. They couldn't think of one. In 1st Samuel 12, Sam gave Israel a verbal highlight film of the many ways Israel had been unfaithful to God.

Score? Israel plenty, Samuel zero. Israel skunked Samuel in the game of disbodience. No one could blame Sam for his frustration with Israel. He could never be bad-mouthed if he chose to quit praying and interceding for the disobedient nation.

Hmmm... How are you doing when it comes to YOUR homeland? Do you get a wee bit frustrated with the direction and disobedience of this nation? America is racking up the points on the scoreboard of disobedience. Do I hear a collective sigh from the saints (not the fans in New Orleans, but the fans of the new covenant)?

Samuel did not give up on Israel. You and I shouldn't give up on America, either. Notice Sam's attitude, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right" (1st Samuel 12:23, NIV).

Sam considered it a personal sin to stop praying for Israel. Though he had every reason under heaven to stop, Samuel's allegiance did not stop short of heaven. He was committed to obeying God, praying for his homeland, and spreading the truth of God's way.

Praying for others is a privilege and a responsibility God has granted us. To not pray for others, according to Samuel, is to fail God. Sounds like a good reason to pray!

The list is long of those who need our prayers. From the leaders to the laborers, the entire country needs the entire body of Christ praying fervently and consistently on behalf of this nation. We are off course. We have drifted into dangerous waters. We're trying to have a pool party in a cesspool. We need to plead before the throne of heaven for forgiveness of the mess we've made on earth.

The good news is, you will never run out of reasons to pray and heaven will never run out of resources to answer. When you put those two things together, a miraculous moving of the entire nation back to its foundations of faith is more than a possibility.

"Father, here we come to ask Your forgiveness for where we've been..." Ok. I've started the prayer.

You finish it...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Challenge Your Faith

An atheist was camping in the woods when he heard heavy footsteps on the other side of the bushes. It sounded like something big was coming toward him. He heard a loud growling sound and decided it must be a bear. He knew better than to run, so he sat very still.

The hairy beast suddenly appeared in front of the atheist, but it wasn't a bear. It was Bigfoot! As soon as the atheist saw the enormous beast, he took off running into the woods. Bigfoot chased him and the atheist could tell the beast was gaining on him.

As the atheist ran for his life, he cried out, "Dear God, save me!"

Time slowed down for a moment and a voice from above bellowed, "I thought you didn't believe in Me."

The atheist cried back in desperation, "Please, God, give me a break. Up until two minutes ago, I didn't believe in Bigfoot either!"

The Bible doesn't waste a lot of time arguing with those who claim there is no God. But you can find one statement that clearly sums up the whole reality of atheism, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1).

Atheism makes no sense. There is more evidence to the existence of God than many of the things atheists DO believe in. Many atheists believe in global warming, yet there is significantly greater evidence of the warmth of an all-loving God. Some atheists believe we've been visited by life-forms from other planets in UFO's. I've seen one episode of "The View" and can see some logic to that. Yet, the evidence that God visited this planet in the life-form of His Son, Jesus, is more compelling than alien visits or even the existence of real, historical and famous people like Shakespeare or George Washington.

I am less concerned about atheism than I am a growing trend among those who profess to be Christians, yet do not believe the Bible nor the statements of Jesus Christ written in the Bible. How can a person be a Christian without believing the Bible which contains the story and message of Christ? How can you claim to be a follower of someone who makes exclusive claims which you do not believe? That blows my mind. It is as illogical as atheism.

Jesus said clearly, "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me" (John 14:6, emphasis on the definite article because the original Greek intentionally places a "the" before each word).

How can that be any clearer? How does a person who claims to be a Christian decide what part of Christ he is going to believe and what part he isn't? What's the source of authority upon which to make such a decision?

If logic or intellect is his answer, then what if he is deranged or becomes deranged or allows a deranged philosopher to settle his beliefs for him? Who gets to decide the definition of sound, definitive logic? Where is his litmus of accuracy located?

My point is: There HAS to be a source of authority. To undermine the source is to step onto the slippery slope of relativism.

Relativism is grounded in mood, not truth. It is dangerous to place truth or reason on the shoulders of feelings. Feelings are not reliable. Feelings should always be on the shoulders of truth, not the other way around. There must be a solid foundation.

Relativism strenuously battles against absolute truth. Yet, I challenge you to defend your position or support your beliefs without making an absolute statement or relying upon an absolute tenet.

God has you cornered. As soon as you shout, "There are NO absolutes," you make an absolute statement.

Here's the greater challenge. Do the unthinkable. Read the Bible. Study it. Examine the life and claims of Jesus from the original source. Seriously. I dare you. You say it isn't true or accurate? Please show me where. I've studied it all my life and my faith depends on it. If there's proof that it isn't true, I'd like to know. Can you do that? Or would you rather just feel your way through life and hope you still feel good about your decision after you die?

Moods change. Truth doesn't. Oh, by the way. The first tactic the devil ever pulled on humanity was to get us to doubt God's word. Adam and Eve fell for that. And fell hard. Have you fallen for it, too?

I'm in a really good mood. Probably because I've found the truth.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Simon Says...So What?

Raise your hand if you ever played "Simon Says." Surely, you didn't just raise your hand. First of all, you would look ridiculous sitting at a computer with your hand in the air. Second, I didn't say, "Simon says."

We used to play this when I was a kid. Somehow, my sister was always Simon. My brother and I never dethroned her. I can still see her skinny, tanned frame as she stood in the yard with hands on her hips, giving out commands. (For her husband's sake, I pray she has discontinued this practice). Oh, hi Lynn!

Who is Simon and why should we care what he says? Some say Simon really isn't Simon. Simon is Cicero. Cicero was a famous ancient philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He was a really smart guy. Like E. F. Hutton, when Simon speaks, people listen.

Or maybe, it is connected to Simon de Montfort and the year 1264, when Simon captured King Henry III at the English town of Lewes. For the next year, any order Henry III gave could have been countermanded by de Montfort. Henry's son, Prince Edward, (who, according to rumor, was at Woodstock...google it) took Simon's castle by force and used his flags as a means to surprise Simon's forces in 1265, thus ending the game, "Simon says."

Whether it is truly rooted in Cicero, the philosopher, or Simon, the conqueror, it is a fun game for children. But when you get older, you soon learn to stop letting Simon boss you around.

So, who SHOULD we listen to? First, you need to realize that there are still a lot of Simons out there, shaking their fingers at you, and telling you what is and is not acceptable. Modern philosophers will tell you to listen to your inner child. That's kinda dumb. Doesn't that bring us full circle back to the kid who used to listen to Simon? The cultural gurus would tell you to listen to anyone who meets with their esoteric chalk dust theories...which usually leave you coughing, choking, scratching your head, or starving. Spiritually, the world would like to hang twenty-five signs pointing in twenty-five directions and have you believe all are equally viable...except for the one that points to Christ.

You can believe anything as long as you don't really believe it. You can do anything any way you want to do it as long you don't tell anybody it's the right way to do it. And you can stand on any truth you want to stand on as long as it doesn't come from a Bible or quote Jesus.


You can be honest. You can make an honest search. You can question why the prevailing philosophy of this world wants to Simonize you away from Jesus Christ and the Bible. You can open your ears and your heart and listen for that still, small voice that speaks from a heart of love, grace, and peace.

I'm not Simon. I'm Perry. I can't tell you what to do or believe. I can only tell you that I'm a recovering Simon-follower who has found Someone far better to follow. I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. There. I said it. Let the politically correct police pummel me with their arrogance and smug faith in the shifting sands of today's "Simon" who was yesterday's nobody and tomorrow's forgotten idol.

I believe in the Rock of Ages. I believe in the One is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I'm going to listen to the One who took my punishment and bears my scars all because He loved me.

By the way...I'm in good company. A guy named Simon (Peter) met this same Jesus and left everything to follow Him.

You don't have to take any baby steps or giant steps to find Jesus. He's only a prayer away. Call out to Him. He's waiting for you with arms open wide, not hands on His hips.

Perry says, "Jesus Saves." But Jesus saves whether Perry says so or not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clear Your Heart, Not Your Calendar

Ever wonder what some of that stuff on your calendar means? Not the stuff you wrote illegibly. The stuff printed on the calendar by the calendar-making people - the Calendarites.

The Calendarites have printed a couple of things on my calendar during this month that are incredibly significant, yet most Christians have no idea what any of it means nor how it relates to their faith.

Keeping in mind that this is a devotion and not a dissertation, let's glance at our "at-a-glance" calendars together and learn a little about some funny words printed there. Look at the 19th and the 28th of September. What do you see? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Men, those are not famous fashion designers. Ladies, those are not famous athletes. They are Jewish holidays. Why should we care? We're Christians, not Jews. True. But Christianity came out of Judaism and Jesus was Jewish!

Reminds me of the Jewish Rabbi who sent his son to Jerusalem only to learn that his son met a Christian there and became a follower of Christ. The Rabbi was heartbroken, and went to God in prayer, "My son went to Jerusalem and became a Christian! What am I going to do?" God answered, "Why are you asking Me? So did Mine!"

Let's start with Rosh Hashanah. Translated, it means "head of the year." Believe it or not, "Happy New Year" hasn't always been celebrated by all things human on January 1st! The Jewish New Year isn't about fireworks and resolutions. It's about repentance and cleansing.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets. In ancient Israel, a trumpet (shofar) was blown for two reasons: to gather the Israelites together for an assembly or to sound an alarm to the troops that an enemy was approaching.

The trumpet means, "Get ready!" The trumpet is blown for 40 days to remind people to repent because Rosh Hashanah is coming. Sound familiar, Christian friend? I seem to recall the New Testament repeatedly warning followers of Christ to get ready and stay ready because of the promise of a trumpet blast that will announce the return of Christ! (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17). One big difference. When the trumpet blows to announce Christ's return, the Calendarites won't have it printed for us. 2nd Peter 3:10-12 reminds us that no one knows when that day will come.

Rosh Hashanah means, "Get ready." And the way to get ready is to repent. Turn from your sins. Be cleansed of your sins that have accumulated and now cling to you like dust and grime.

Are you listening for the trumpet? Are you ready for Jesus to return? I can't help but believe that Gabriel has been practicing and his angelic lips are near the horn. Repent and turn to Christ now while he's inhaling. Once he exhales and blows that trumpet, it will be too late.

How do you turn to Christ? Just tell God in your own words that you know you are a sinner and you want to accept the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus), who paid the penalty for your sins when He was crucified in your behalf. Ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you. God's grace is freely available to all who ask.

Yom Kippur. Day of Atonement. Separate the first two letters of atonement from the next three and you get the idea: "At One" -ment. Our sins separate us from God. To be atoned means to be made "at one" with God again.

All the other Jewish festivals are celebrative. Filled with singing and dancing before the Lord. Yom Kippur is a more solemn time. A time to 'fess up and seek God's forgiveness and mercy.

Yom Kippur was the only time of the year the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple. He would enter to atone for his own sins and for the sins of the people. A bull and goat were sacrificed and their blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat.

On this same day, a second goat was brought in -- a scapegoat was brought to the leaders of Israel. They laid hands on the animal, symbolically placing the sins of the Nation on it. Then they drove it out into the wilderness, believing that it was carrying their sins away.

Goat #1 paid for their sins with his blood. Goat #2 removed their sins from their presence. Goat #1 brought forgiveness. Goat #2 brought cleansing and restored them to a righteous standing before God.

At least, for a little while. It had to be repeated every year and was needed every month, week, day, and hour. Why? Because we are all professional sinners.

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament explains all of this. It is called "Hebrews" because it reveals the truth of Yeshua's Messianic fulfillment to those Jews who seek to make an honest investigation of the claims of Christ. It brings the Jew to see that Judaism has been fulfilled in Jesus.

Yom Kippur. Day of Atonement. As a believer and follower of Christ, you have a Yom Kippur, too. There's been a day of atonement for you. It isn't on any of our current or recent calendars. It was etched into one calendar 2,000 years ago. "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).

Once Jesus made His sacrifice of atonement on the cross when He died for our sins, it finalized the need for annual sacrifices. "Not that He should offer Himself often...but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself...so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:25-28).

By the way...Jesus IS returning. How do I know? He promised He would. He's kept every promise He ever made. Others can scoff and doubt. It makes them feel smart. That's fine. Jesus predicted they would, so when they do, they just make Him look right smart.

I don't know when Jesus is coming. I just know He is. When I see my calendar every September, it reminds me to be ready. Are you ready? If not, will you make an honest, unbiased search of the Bible for truth? Not because you already believe it ISN'T true and want to nitpick it to death, but because you really want to know if it IS true.

I know you're hungry for something that satisfies. Jesus is the bread of life, the manna from heaven, the source of living water, the light of the world, and the garment of righteousness.

Happy New Life!
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's That You're Wearing?

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings" (Genesis 3:7).

An increasing number of television documentaries take aim at the Bible in an attempt to question the validity of its content. Scholars with a bias against belief in a sovereign God or sinful man pick apart Scripture by developing theories of logic that seek to trap God within the confines of human limitations. Like a glove that doubts the existence of a hand, they ignore the obvious.

They also ignore Biblical scholars with equal or greater credentials than the ones they interview because such scholars believe the Bible is true and accurate. Instead, they seek out like-minded doubters with the same agenda to convince us all that the Bible is not a valid source for the creation of the world, the existence of man, or the explanation of life.

Forgive me for being blunt, but the question begs to be asked: Why, then, do those who spout their doubt so freely against God's story still wear clothing? Don't get me wrong -- I'm GLAD they do! But why?

If the Bible-attackers and naysayers of God who diligently work to convince the world that the Bible is a myth and God is dead truly believe what they are spouting, shouldn't their logic lead them to stop covering themselves?

I'm not advocating a revival of nakedness. I'm asking those who are certain of the absence of God or the irrelevance of Scripture why they are still clothed. If, according to them, the Bible isn't true, including the creation and beginning of man through Adam and Eve, and the whole Garden of Eden thing -- then humans are not sinners and shame, guilt, and embarassment are not valid.

I, for one, am glad they are inconsistent at this point. But think about it. If there is no God, no sin, no fall of man, and all that follows according to Scripture, then why are we the only species shopping at JC Penney? After all, we're born naked. Yet we are quickly covered. Frogs are born naked and swim nude the rest of their lives.

Oh, I know what their answer would be. It is a social etiquette engrained in our society based on a false belief system that would be too shocking to our culture to reverse. Plus, you can get arrested.

I wonder. Is that an answer based on logic or is it a personal conviction? I have a sneaky suspicion that even if we removed the laws, even the loudest Bible haters would never feel comfortable removing clothing from their closets. Even the atheist thanks God for clothing.

I thank God for clothing, too. Especially at restaurants. But I believe the origin of the whole clothing thing goes back to the first couple. I believe it had everything to do with sin, shame, and the fall of humanity. I know I'm sacrificing my opportunity to be a guest theologian on PBS and the History channel, but I believe the Bible.

Blessed to be Dressed,
Perry Crisp

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty

All dads are familiar with "daddy jobs." Daddy jobs are jobs that everyone else in the family gladly relies on dad to do. Dads get to deal with fun stuff like snakes in the house, spiders in the bathtub, and going outside at 2 a.m. to see why the dog is barking.

But there are other "daddy jobs" that a dad is called on to do because he's the only one strong enough to do them. The universal daddy job of all households is opening stuff. Well-taped packages that require a knife or sharp instrument? (Insert "toolman grunt" here). Daddy job. Sticky doors and drawers that swell and won't open easily? Daddy job.

The most common of all is the stuck jar lid. It can be a jelly jar, hot sauce jar, mayonnaise jar, or a jar of any kind with food products inside --- Daddy job.

"Dad, can you open this?" I've yet to figure out if that is a request, a command, or a challenge to my manhood. I always assume the latter and spring to the challenge. Thankfully, there haven't been too many that caused my face to turn red or my veins to thicken on my forehead. Most of them are opened rather easily. But every once in a while, a challenger comes along that is a worthy adversary.

"Dad, can you open this," asks your six-year-old daughter as she hands you a jar of preserves that has been passed down from grandma and has been sitting in an outside pantry rusting away since Truman was president. Without hesitation, you find yourself in a death-grip with that jar twisting with all your might. That old rusty jar takes you to your knees while your daughter looks at you in disappointment. You feel like Superman trying to open a jar of kryptonite and Lois Lane is shocked to see that you can't even open a jar!

After two or three innings, the old jar lid loosens and loses the battle against the man of the house. And yes, the man of the house takes a victory lap around the kitchen.

In the pantry of your life, there may be some things that need opening that fall into the category of "Daddy jobs." Not your earthly daddy. Your heavenly Father. There are some things that only the Father can open. Whether in your life or in the life of someone close to you, you can approach your Father and ask, "Daddy, can You open this?"

He can. God can open closed minds, barricaded hearts, and doors that we thought were permanently shut. Do you have a loved one whose heart and mind is closed toward God? Ask your heavenly Daddy to open it. Do you have a friend or someone you love deeply who has closed the door of their heart to you? Hand it over to your Father. Do you find it difficult to understand what the Bible is saying when you sit down to read it? Ask God to open your understanding. Luke 24:45 says,
"And He (Jesus) opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures."

Whatever the jar and however tight the lid, take it to Daddy. If He can open the closed tomb of His lifeless Son and bring Him back to life, He can open anything.

Perry Crisp

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Hunting Ranch for the PC Now Open

New Hunting Ranch for the PC Now Open

Ever wanted to satisfy that innate craving to hate and hunt, but your political correctness keeps getting in the way? Sure, it's great feeling smug and self-righteous when defending the rights of the planet, animals and people less "people" than you, but what do you do with the call of the wild inside you?

Well, now you have an outlet! Bill Mayhem and Michael Moreorless have created El Rancho Diablo, government-funded (oops, that part was supposed to be a secret) hunting ranches for the Politically Correct. These ranches are conveniently located in several undisclosed locations on both the east and west coasts.*

What can you do at El Rancho Diablo? You can release the deep wells of anger and hatred you have for those pesky Christians and right-wing radio personalities at the top of your lungs without fear of having to defend your bias or irrational and unjustified disdain.

El Rancho Diablo is fully equipped with extravagant Shouting and Shooting Ranges. Our shouting and shooting ranges allow you the option of shouting or shooting a BB gun** at life-like fake wax*** replicas of Bible-thumping believers and your most despised radio right-wingers.

Want to pop a vein on your forehead while shouting at the top of your lungs at Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, or Shawn Hannity without fear of them talking back? No problem. Care to spew venom and hatred at a few smiling, hard-working, tax-paying, successful, upper-middle class Christians? Fire away!

Speaking of "firing away," we even provide weapons (because we know you've always wanted to hold one). At every shouting and shooting range, you can choose from a selection of BB guns ranging from BB pistols to semi-automatic BB rifles. Your personal trainer**** will assist you in the proper methods of gun handling. She or he will show you how to pick up the weapon, hold the weapon, and aim the weapon.

*A screening process is required to gain access to these locations to ensure that you won't actually have to confront a live Christian or right-wing radio personality.

**Of course, because this is a PC outing, the ranch only allows BB guns with blanks. All BB rifles come standard with recoil pads for your safety.

***No candles were harmed in the making of these replicas.

****Recently released Guantanamo Bay terror suspects.

Apply today. No logic necessary. Politicians, government employees, Oprahma, all news agency employees except FOX NEWS, and Liberal College Professors hunt free. No ID (or IQ for that matter) required. Lists of popular slogans and fool-proof irrelevant chants complete with demonstration signs supplied if you feel more comfortable holding a sign instead of a gun. While government funding lasts. Lawyers experienced in frivolous lawsuits are on standby for your convenience in case you wish to sue us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hugging an Answered Prayer

I hugged an answered prayer last night. It is an "amazing grace" story that has encouraged me to continue even more boldly in a practice I've employed for several years.

Through the years I have noticed that waiters and waitresses are often mistreated and misrespected by the people they serve. I have seen people, even Christians, be embarrassingly rude to the person who takes their order, fills their tea glass, and delivers their meals.

I have a chosen the opposite path. If these human beings are going to be the targets of rudeness by other human beings on a regular basis, then I want to be a positive part of their day to help overshadow some of the negatives. At first, I started with simple acts of kindness and a little humor to let them know I wasn't going to be a problem customer. I also tip generously and unconditionally.

Another common practice of mine is to pray before each meal. Whether I am at a restaurant with family and friends or at my desk unwrapping a bologna sandwich, I pause to give thanks.

At some point, I started combining these two practices. I don't remember when, but one day, after my waitress took my order, I called her by name (thanks to the name tag) and told her we were going to have prayer before our meal and we would like to pray for her. I asked her if she had any specific needs. She gave a nervous answer, smiled, thanked me, and went to her next task, and I prayed for her.

I've been doing that ever since. I've made a few friends along the way in the restaurants I visit frequently. It has blessed me to pray for them. It has blessed them to have someone see them as a real person with real needs. On a side note, it is amazing how great the service is when you treat people with compassion and respect. Please don't do it for that reason or it will ruin the real blessing.

I have a long list of fantastic responses from waiters and waitresses that I could share with you, but I want to tell you what happened that resulted in last night's answered-prayer-hug.

The Lord called me to serve as pastor of Lake Fork Baptist Church in east Texas in November of last year. Shortly after God called us here, the church staff and their families invited us out to eat following a Sunday evening service. There is a restaurant right around the corner from the church. As usual, after the waitress came to our table and took our order, I asked her if she had any prayer requests.

She hesitated. Then she held back tears as she asked us to pray for her brother. She didn't go into any personal details, but the rest of the staff knew the young man and knew a little about his needs. Her request for prayer for her brother stuck with me. She was sincere. She smiled and thanked us. We prayed for him by name. That was ten months ago.

For ten months, every time I've entered that restaurant and seen that waitress, I've been reminded to pray for her brother, not knowing who he was...until last night.

After our Wednesday night services were over and we were standing around talking, one of my deacons tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I want you to meet someone who just met my best friend." I introduced myself to the young man and hugged him. He had that smile on his face that Jesus gives people right after He moves into their hearts.

My deacon told me the young man's name, but nothing registered. It's a common name. But the wife of our worship leader was looking at me funny. She had that wide-eyed look that indicated to me there was more to the story than I realized. She whispered into my ear,
"Do you remember that time right after you came here that we went out to eat and you asked the waitress if she had any prayer needs, and she asked us to pray for her brother?"

I love it when the light comes on! Instantly, I had an "A-ha!" moment. This was him! I turned back to the young smiling man and said, "Young man, I prayed for you long before I ever met you." I told him the story. We hugged again. That hug was sweeter than the one before because I was hugging an answered prayer.

I'm encouraged to continue asking waitresses and cashiers and anyone else God puts in my path if they have a prayer need. There's nothing like hugging the neck of an answered prayer.

When you go to a restaurant, do yourself a favor. After they take your order, take theirs.

Perry Crisp

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Big Mike

Mike walked into our Sunday school class for the first time and immediately my eight-year-old mind went to work. Mike was ridiculously tall for an eight-year-old. His feet and hands were huge. He looked like a combination of three people: the body of a sixteen-year-old basketball player, the hands and feet of a twenty-three-year-old football player, and the face of an eight-year-old choir boy. He was shy, but all smiles.

Jodie and Melvin wanted to make fun of him, but I huddled them up and quickly reminded them how terrible our boy's basketball team for the church was. We needed Mike! So we started in with the smooth-talking, "Hey...Mike...buddy!"

Being incredibly skilled at transparency, my first question was, "Mike, do you play basketball?"

His answer startled me. He smiled and said, "Nope. I've never tried."

Never tried? This was alarming news to a boy who slept with a basketball, played basketball all day until darkness hid the rim, dribbled the basketball in the garage waiting for it to stop raining, and used every curtain rod and tennis ball in the house for an imaginary basketball game.*

Big deal. Michael had never played basketball before. He was only eight. How hard could it be to teach him what he needed to know?

You'd be surprised.

It was quite a challenge. Mike was so strong, he didn't shoot the ball, he launched it. His body had grown so fast that he was still catching up to it. His reactions were slower than a turtle race on slo-mo instant replay. His strength was greater than his mind could process. His feet were so big, he couldn't run. He galloped in a painful lumbering motion that looked like it hurt. It was like watching Elaine Benes dance.

He nearly wore out the center part of the court. By the time he almost got on the defensive end of the floor, we had the ball and were heading to our goal. As everyone passed by him, he would turn around and head to the offensive end. Shortly after he turned around, we were running back to play defense.

By the time our first game came around, our coach realized that Mike was a work in progress so he left Mike on the bench. It didn't hurt Mike's feelings at all. He was happy to be on the team and was proud of his FBBO jersey (First Baptist, Bevil Oaks...though the other churches thought it stood for Funny Boy Body Odor).

The game I remember most was a game against FBB (First Baptist, Beaumont). They were the rich kids. They had the high dollar brand new Pony shoes, four sweat bands on each arm, and shiny jerseys with their names stitched on the back. They were one of the few churches that had a gym in those days, so we always played them on their home turf.

Yes, it was church basketball. But it was all-out war. All we ever wanted was to beat FBB. But FBB was not about to lose to a backwoods church from the bayou. We were whistled for fouls every twenty seconds. If we got close to one of their players, it was a foul. Yet they could knock us over, take the ball, and run to the other end of the court and score without a whistle being blown.

I was the second one on our team to foul out. Eventually, all five starters fouled out and Michael was sent into the game. Bless his heart. He tried. He was such a big teddy bear. The boys from the other team were scared of him at first. But Mike's smile gave away the purity of his heart and they eventually started pushing him around.

Mike let them. Though a hundred times stronger and a foot taller, he let them run into him, knock him down, and push him around.

Our coach called time-out. Coach encouraged Mike to keep his ski---his feet planted and not let them push him around. And because Mike couldn't keep up with the speed of the game, Coach told Mike to stand close to the other team's goal and not let them drive in for a layup. Mike smiled and nodded.

Sure enough, Mike stood where Coach told him to stand. But he just smiled at the other team as they went around him and scored. I was about to snap. Not at Mike. I loved Mike. Mike and I had become buddies. Mike was the kindest, most gentle kid I'd ever met. He would do anything for me. I was just tired of seeing them score over and over and make taunting gestures at my buddy.

As Mike stood under the other team's goal, the rest of our team had the ball on our end of the floor and were trying to run a play. One of the players from the other team stole the ball. He was the biggest "show-off" on their team. He had been teasing Mike and making fun of him since Mike first smiled at him.

When "Show-off" stole the ball, there were only ten seconds left in the game. He drove the ball right toward Mike. Mike just stood there, smiling at him. I'd had enough. I yelled,
"Mike, hit him!"

Let's hit the pause button on the action for a second. In my eight-year-old church-basketball-playing mind, when I said, "Hit him," I envisioned Mike stepping in front of the show-off, standing his ground, and having some type of bodily contact that would either be called a foul or a charge.

Mike's mind took a more literal route.

Mike looked at me as if I was his commanding officer and I had just given him a direct, yet puzzling command. But a command it was, and he was determined to carry it out. After he looked at me, he looked at the show-off. The smile on Mike's face was replaced by a furrowed brow and tight lips. Mike's right man-hand drew up in a fist big enough to cover "Show-off's" entire face. Mike pulled that mighty fist back and let it fly.

The show was over for "Show-off." Mike's punch landed squarely and "Show-off" reversed his motion and landed flat on his back.

I was amazed at how quickly everyone's eyes went from the floor to the bench. EVERYONE was looking at me...especially Coach. The blood left my face and I shrugged my shoulders as I pleaded my case,
"I didn't mean 'HIT HIM' like that!"

After that game, I quit trying to make Mike into my image of what I thought he should be. It was reassuring to have a huge friend who responded so well to my commands. But I gave up the plans I had for him because it was what I wanted...not what Mike wanted.

Since then, I've learned a great deal about plans. Not only have I learned that I cannot decide or coerce the plans of other people's lives, I've learned to feed my own plans and agendas for my life into the shredder, too. Why?

Life's not about me. I'm not here for me. Life's about purpose. If my life has a purpose, then there must be a Purposer. In fact, there is. God created me and you for a purpose. God has plans for you. Awesome plans. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

I command no one. I am called to surrender, submit, and serve. Lest you think that sounds icky, let me assure you -- it is the greatest place and path that any of us can be in or on. To be where and who God made you to be is indescribably fulfilling.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, NIV).

Don't worry. I won't hit you. Unless God tells me to. So far, He hasn't. Even when I've tried to talk Him into it.

Hopefully, Mike's learned the same lesson I have. I hope you have, too. Let God be your guide. He has the plans and knows the way.

Oh, and if you see a guy my age with an unusually large nose, would you tell him, "Perry's sorry."

Perry Crisp

*Curtain rod basketball with a tennis ball is fun. The curtain rod is at just the right distance from the wall to allow a tennis ball to squeeze between it. Some of the best dunks of my life were in a living room. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gainer or Loser?

A "gainer" is a type of dive in which the diver does a backwards flip while his body is going forward. The diver faces the water, springs forward off the diving board, and the movement of his body continues progressing forward. Yet, while moving forward in the air, the diver reverses his momentum, causing his body to do a back flip while progressing forward.

The only difficult part of this maneuver is convincing your mind that such a thing makes sense. Of course, there is also the "trial and error" period that can be painful until the dive is perfected.

I have seen people try this dive who were over-anxious about getting the back flip motion going a millisecond after their toes left the board instead of waiting until they got to the top of their jump. Ouch! Tossing your head back too soon before clearing the diving board area can give you a nasty headache.

The other mistake I have seen people make is freezing up or losing their bearings before they finish the backward rotation. Ouch again! Faces, bellies, and backs make an awful popping noise when they hit the water like a bulldog chasing a parked car. Side effects include redness, occasional swelling, a serious stinging sensation, laughter from the pool rats, and momentary embarrassment.

My advice? 1) Wear a shirt and a ski mask until you get the gainer perfected. 2) Learn this dive when you're young. Adults, don't try this at home.

My daughter was surprised to see her 47-year-old dad do a gainer the other day. I wasn't suprised that I could do the gainer. I was more concerned about my ancient knees cooperating at the impact of the bounce. But the springiness...springyness...oy... (I feel the need to introduce a new word). But the sprength of the limber diving board took a great deal of pressure off my old-man knees and I got the bounce I needed.

I felt like a kid again!

A gainer at a swimming pool is to be celebrated. But what about when a Christian or a church does a gainer? What do we do when we are moving forward in Christ and the momentum of the Holy Spirit of God is launching us unto new heights, and we foolishly give in to the temptation to reverse our motion?

It is a guarantee that every time a believer or body of believers is making great leaps of spiritual progress, the enemy gets busy in an effort to stop or slow down the progress. He pulls out all the stops. He whispers doubt into the heart and pride into the head to convince us to reverse our motion.

When the devil is successful in convincing us to gainer, we end up a loser. A messy "splat" is heard and felt. It is heart-wrenching.

Observers sit poolside and turn to one another in confusion, "What are they doing? They were going in the right direction. Why did they stop? Why did they try to go back?"

God's people have always struggled with this. A few days after the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of 400 years of slavery to the Egyptians, gainer-whining could be heard among the masses. In nasal-sounding tones that are reminiscent of (other people's) kids in the back seat of the family car, the Israelites whined, "We want to go ba-a-a-ack to Egypt."

Those sitting by the Red Sea pool leaned toward one another and said, "They want to go back? God just set them free from slavery and is leading them to the Promised Land --- and they want to go back?"

We do. We all do. We gainer from time to time. But what do we do when our gainer leaves us feeling like a loser? We go back to the sprength of the One who lifted us before! His grace and forgiveness heals the pain of our splat.

Christianity is a second-chance sport. Failure isn't final. "One-and-done" isn't the way God operates.

Come on in...the water's fine.
Perry Crisp

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yes, You CAN

At the back corner of our church property you will find a small, fenced-in area with a sign that reads "Cans for Christ." It is a place where people can drop off their aluminum cans for recycling.

The beauty of recycling aluminum is that the aluminum can be melted down and reused over and over again. It can be a coke* can today or an airplane tomorrow. (Not all by itself, you understand). Or it can be melted down and end up on a bicycle, a computer, a car, a boat, or a house (as a gutter, wiring, or siding).

Take a journey with me for a moment. Let's be an RC Cola can. An RC Cola can is a thing of beauty. You'll not find a more beautiful color of blue than the blue on an RC Cola can. I can hear some of you now: "Why RC?" This is a devotional article, not a business meeting. I'm writing this and I like RC Cola. You Dr. Pepper people just back off! (Insert smiley face here).

So, we're an RC Cola can. We're shipped to a convenience store near Lake Fork, Texas. A tall, lanky preacher from a church up the road stops at the convenience store, opens the refrigerator door, picks us up, purchases us, and takes us back to his truck.

There he pops the top and we pour the refreshing content of our can down his throat. When he gets to the bottom, we're empty. Our usefulness appears to be completed. At first, he tosses us into a Subway bag along with the trash from his recent lunch. We're done! We're trash! We're doomed to life in a landfill next to a smelly diaper!

But then he retrieves us from the bag, pulls up to a small, fenced-in area, and tosses us into an apparent graveyard of empty cans. We look around and there are cans of every nationality and race scattered all around us. The generic cans are there. Apparently, Baptists buy the cheap stuff.

But the big dogs are there, too. You know, the popular ones with all the nice theme songs and commercials. A few energy drink cans are also laying around. They look tired. And don't look now, but there are a few beer cans, too. Some Presbyterians must be sneaking onto the Baptist parking lot at night to drop off their cans. Or maybe one of the Sunday school classes had a fish fry and needed the beer for batter (wink, wink).

Eventually, someone loads us and all the other cans into a truck and we are delivered to a recycling center. There we go through a painful process. We are cut up into tiny pieces, sprayed with chemicals, crushed, melted, beaten, molded, and remade into a flat panel. We're not sure what we are now. We wind up at a manufacturing plant that makes airplanes and we are riveted onto the wing of a beautiful, massive airplane.

We are no longer a single can quickly consumed. We are now a part of something bigger. Now, we soar high above every convenience store, grocery store, coke* machine, beverage truck, and warehouse. A flight from DFW takes us right over Lake Fork. We find the church, the parking lot, and the tiny fence where we once laid. It wasn't a graveyard after all.

On the count of three, I'm going to snap my fingers and we are no longer the aluminum can/airplane. One, two, three. SNAP.

The little fence is a lot like the buildings just to the east of it. People enter as individuals who feel that their lives have been spent and tossed onto the landfill of broken dreams. But God uses empty containers. We are called upon to die to ourselves, take up His cross, and follow Him. Our old nature is melted down. Our old life is removed like dross. We are made into something new and beautiful.

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2nd Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).

"Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new" (2nd Corinthians 5:17, CEV).

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles..." (Isaiah 40:31).

Perry Crisp

*Generic word in the South for all carbonated beverages...also know as "pop" or "soda" by my friends up North. We know it isn't politically correct and we are comfortable with that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

GLAD I'm No Longer HEFTY

It's trash day. In our neighborhood, several neighbors share a trash corner. Every Monday, each neighbor carries his or her week's worth of trash to the corner and adds it to the ever-growing pile.

There's no dumpster. We just drop our sacks and stacks of trash on the grass near the street sign. There are huge sacks of trash and little sacks of trash. There are white sacks and black sacks. There are high-dollar, reinforced, double-walled trash bags with objects bulging and pushing, but not bursting through the sides of the bag. There are cheap bags that rip and tear easily.

All bags of all kinds from all neighbors taken to the same exact spot and left there. Later in the day, a trash truck pulls up to trash corner and picks up all our trash and takes it away. By mid-afternoon, trash corner is always cleared of trash...as if the trash had never been there.

This morning I drove past trash corner without stopping. Not because I didn't have trash. I'd been carrying three trash bags in the bed of my truck for two days. I put the trash back there in anticipation of trash day. But after a couple of days of hauling it around, I forgot it was back there. I became accustomed to seeing it there and didn't even notice it when I drove out of the driveway this morning. I drove right past trash corner with my trash still in my truck.

I made it about a block and a half before it dawned on me that I forgot to drop off my trash. I turned around at the next driveway and returned to trash corner. I removed the three bags from the bed of my truck and left them there.

After I set the trash bags down, I looked up at the sign. The sign had two identifying markers on it: a county road number and the name of the county. I looked up and saw the county name -- Wood -- and that's when things turned weird.

As I stood beneath that Wood County road sign with my trash bags at my feet, my mind transitioned from the physical to the spiritual. I saw myself standing beneath a Wooden cross, having laid my bags of sin at the base of it.

This is what Jesus did for me. And for you. But it wasn't a Monday. It was a Friday. Good Friday. Jesus took the trash of our sins away to a hill called Calvary. On that hill, Jesus "became sin for us" on a wooden cross and removed every bag. He didn't toss it in a landfill and cover it up. He took it down to the ocean floor of the Sea of Forgetfulness and there it dissolved.

How often do we carry our sinful trash around with us? How many times do we overlook our baggage and bypass the cross? Turn around. Repent. Take your sins to Sin Corner and gratefully lay them beneath the Wooden cross of Jesus.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" - 1st John 1:9.

Perry Crisp

Monday, August 3, 2009


Every Flintstone cartoon ended the same. After a slab of prehistoric ribs was set on the Flintstone's car, causing it to tip over, the family would make their way to their boulder-home. Once they were inside their rocky residence, Fred would reappear on the front porch to set out an empty milk bottle.*

Fred would then go back inside the house, pick up the kitty (a saber tooth tiger), and toss it outside. As soon as Fred slammed the door shut, the kitty would go back inside the house by jumping through an open window. Then the door would open, the kitty would have Fred by the collar, and would toss him outside and shut the door.

The final scene was always the same. Fred was left outside his own house, banging on the door, yelling, "Wilmaaaaaaa!"

Why I remember the vivid details of childhood cartoons but couldn't tell you the first thing that happened at the Battle of Bull Run is beyond me. But let's stay focused.

That final Flintstone clip is the picture I want us to see. Fred. Outside his own home. Banging on the door. Tossed out by the family pet.

Do you see the sad irony? It's Fred's house. He's the owner. He's the provider. He works in the rock quarry day in and day out to make a living and provide for his family. He's the man of the house. The slab of rock that has "Mortgage" chiseled at the top and "Signature" chiseled at the bottom has Fred's "X" inscribed into it.

If it weren't for Fred, that cat would be Teradactyl food. But the cat is cozy inside the house of Fred and Fred is left outside his own home.

Now turn to the Book of Revelation. The second and third chapters of Revelation are messages from God to seven churches. God, the Creator, Owner, Founder, and Provider of the church writes these words to the church of Laodicea: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock..."

What? God is standing outside His own house...knocking. God wants in. That disturbs me. The Church is God's own special people, redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Is it possible that we could go on with "church" in cozy kitten-like comfort without God?

Yes, it is. I've been in churches all my life. Before it was ever an occupational hazard, it was an occupational hazard by proxy. Not only am I a preacher, but I'm a son of a preacher. I've always been in church. I love the church. But I've seen enough churches to know that God isn't always inside. At least not in any discernible way.

If you sense the presence and power of God in the church you attend, then thank and praise God for it. I do...every day. In far too many churches, His absence is overwhelmingly noticeable. God often seems like a visitor, an occasional guest, or an inactive member.

God should be the most active member of the church.

What hinders God's activity? What keeps God knocking on the outside of the church? Disunity. Corporate sin. Pride. Unauthorized revisions of His authorized revelation. I'm sure the list is longer, but these are the main reasons.

The better question is: What encourages God's activity? It is so simple. Just add the word "genuine" to the front of each of the following answers: Prayer, worship, brokenness, honesty, acceptance, forgiveness, unity, ministry, fellowship, brotherly love, proclamation of His Word, and lifting up the name of Jesus.

God also shows up where He's expected and invited. That might be the simplest of solutions for some fellowships.

It should go without saying, but I will. Hasn't He bled enough for us already? Why should He have to bloody His knuckles on the doors of our churches?

Fred had a rock house. God has a house that rocks...if we will let Him in and let Him loose.

Perry Crisp

*For those born post-1970, it was once common practice for every home to be visited by the milk man in the wee hours of the morning. You could set your empty glass milk containers on the porch at night. In the morning, the milk man would pick up the empties and replace them with fresh, cold milk...so I've read.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Words never uttered...from the animal kingdom:

Fish: "I'm thirsty."

Cow: "That hamburger looks good."

Snail: "It all happened so fast."

Eagle: "No thanks. I'd rather walk."

Vulture: "Gross! I'm not eating that!"

Snake: "Hey, look! A guy with a hoe. I wonder if he's friendly."

Porcupine: "That was the best massage I ever got."

Cat: "I hope Jamie wants to play 'fetch' today!"

Alligator: "What! No salad bar?"

Turkey: "I love November."

Salmon: "I'll be back."

Armadillo, Opossum, Rabbit, & Turtle: "Always look both ways before crossing the road."

Words never uttered...from me:

"May I please have a pickle?"

"Oh boy! Algebra!"

"I wish I had a cat."

"I wonder what's on HG tv."

"Alright! Golf AND Nascar on tv at the same time! Cool!"

"I'll be back right after I get an earring and highlights."

"Fishing? Nah, I'm too tired."

"I only feel like preaching ten minutes today."

Words never uttered...from Biblical characters:

Adam to Eve: "Oh yeah? I'll have you know there are PLENTY of women who find me attractive!"

Eve to Adam: "Honey, I wouldn't eat that if I were you."

Noah (before the ark): "I've always dreamed of operating a zoo."

Noah (after the ark): "We sure could use some rain."

Abraham: "Sodom seems like a nice place to raise a family."

Lazarus: "I don't believe in miracles."

Satan: "You really need to think this through."

Jesus: "I could probably help you get to heaven. Or you could try one of those other guys. Either way."

God: "I changed my mind. I don't love you any more."

Perry Crisp
(Okay, so I admit. My quiet time got a little off-track this morning)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Elijah, the prophet, stood alone before Ahab, the king of Israel. Ahab was not high on God's "This is how you should rule Israel" list. In fact, "Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him" (1st Kings 16:33).

Because of Ahab's sin, God was going to turn the water sprinklers off. Israel was about to see clear skies. No rain. No sprinkle. Not even a light mist. Hebrew forecasters would soon forget how to say "precipitation."

Elijah had the privilege of telling the wicked king about God's "No Repentance, No Rain" policy. Elijah was a Tishbite from Gilead. Mean anything to you? Basically, Elijah was a renegade preacher from the back woods of a foreign country. He was no dignitary. Not a politician. Like today's politicians, he knew nothing of foreign relations. He just knew that God set him on Ahab's front porch, told him to ring the doorbell, deliver a message, and run!

Why Elijah? We're not sure. Other than the fact that Elijah was close enough to God to hear Him speak. Apparently, Israel wasn't. God will do that sometimes. He will use an available witness to confront a wayward soul just to get His message across.

Elijah's name and his story begin and end with God. "El" means "God" and "jah" means "Lord." All that's left to his name is "i." Add a little English to a lot of Hebrew and you could translate Elijah's name this way: God(me)Lord. A lot of God at the front and back...and a little bit of me in the middle. That's the way it should be for all of us.

Even in his name, El-i-jah was surrounded by God.

Zoom in on this one scene and you'll see a fiery, rugged, rawboned country preacher facing a rotund, posh, self-absorbed king. Elijah walked into six decades of immorality, idolatry, rebellion, and violence and pronounced a multi-year drought.

It was not a good time to invest in an umbrella company because Elijah was right. The drought came. The land of Israel suffered an unprecedented string of days, weeks, months, and years without a single drop of rain.

God provided for Elijah's food, water, and shelter. When the time was right, God sent Elijah out again to stand before a thinner, thirstier shadow of a king. When the smoke and dust settled, Elijah, the lone prophet of God prevailed over hundreds of Ahab's false prophets.

We live in a day and in a land where immorality and ungodliness surround us. We are called upon to sometimes stand alone against the evil that everyone else ignores or accepts. When we do, we are never really alone. God looks for special people in difficult times to stand for truth and righteousness.

Will you?

God probably wants to use you to lead others through difficult times. You can be someone's El-i-jah. In fact, go ahead and put your name between the "El" and the "jah" --- El________jah.

Surrender to the God who wants to surround you and let Him use you. All it takes is a lot of Him and a little bit of you.