Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hide Me Behind

*Disclaimer: The author of this devotional in no way condones the following unsafe activity. The story below took place in primitive, pre-politically correct times and is DEscriptive, not PREscriptive.

Back in the day when parents could buy kids BB guns and no one would gasp, my folks bought my brother, Mark, and me a pair of BB pistols. They were black, heavy, very cool looking to a nine-year-old boy, and when you pulled the trigger on those BB pistols, the BB sped out of the nozzle with the speed of -- well, the speed of a turtle.

That was the least powerful BB gun on the planet. You could aim it straight up in the air, pull the trigger, and never lose sight of the BB. If you kept your eye on the BB, you could even catch it when it came back down, and use it again.

That being said, Mark and I decided it wouldn't hurt that much if we shot each other. My memory may be a little skewed because Mark was (and still is) three years older. I'm thinking maybe it was Mark who decided it wouldn't hurt that much if we shot each other...since he was the more experienced marksman.

The BB pistol duel started first in the middle of our street. We stood twenty yards apart, drew our guns, and fired. We both missed. We took a few steps closer to each other and fired again. Missed again. I should mention at this point that my brother had a short fuse. His temper would flare quickly if something did not go according to plan.

Mark started running toward me like a madman. I shot him. He felt it. Then he was REALLY mad. I ran behind a tree for cover. I kept shooting. He was getting furious because now I was hiding. I don't think my laughing at him helped calm him down much either. He hid behind another tree.

After several unsuccessful volleys with us both hiding behind trees, Mark's anger left him and an evil grin crept onto his face. He knew what I didn't know.

I thought I was completely hidden. I wasn't. I was slightly bent over so I could peek around the right side of my tree. Mark was peeking around the other side of his tree. I couldn't see him at all. But he could see what was jutting out behind the left side of my tree. Yep. My backside. My behind was not behind the tree!

Mark aimed and fired. His BB pistol found greater force and velocity than it ever had before. That BB was in a hurry. The target was acquired. Boy, did it sting! It brought me to tears. I dropped my pistol, put pressure on my wound, and hopped around like my pants were on fire. Mark fell to his knees with laughter. I'm so glad I could bring him such joy.

I'm captured by the number of times I see people attempting to hide in the Bible. "Hide and Seek" was first played in the Garden of Eden with the first humans. Adam and Eve tried to hide behind a few leaves (Genesis 3). At least I was smart enough to get behind a tree!

They learned that they could not hide from God.

When Goliath challenged the Israelite army to send out their choice warrior, Saul and all his warriors scrambled to hide behind each other (1st Samuel 17). Saul, the tallest, strongest, most capable warrior of Israel hid behind his men. Then he hid behind a boy, sending young David out to fight the giant Philistine. David won that fight and many others. Saul lost his glory, his crown, and his mind.

Achan took that which was forbidden and buried it under his tent to hide it (Joshua 7). God knew where it was and led Joshua closer and closer to Achan. Achan tried to hide. It was not until Joshua stood face to face with Achan that Achan confessed. Achan never got to wear the garments or gold that he stole. He tried to hide himself and his sin, yet failed on both accounts.

Jonah tried to hide by running in the opposite direction (Jonah 1). God said, "Jonah, set your GPS to the east...Ninevah." Jonah went west...Tarshish. He tried to hide on a boat. God sent a prophet-hungry fish to fetch him. The intestinal gases of that fish's stomach caused Jonah to rethink the hiding thing. He agreed to go to Ninevah. But it wasn't long before Jonah was hiding again. This time, Jonah hid outside the city of Ninevah under the shelter of a plant and pouted. The type of plant is not identified. Maybe it was a whining willow or a sulking sapling.

The one positive that followers of God have been able to glean from Jonah is that there's no point in trying to hide from God.

But we try anyway.

We hide behind flimsy fig leaves of moodiness. We hide behind other people and point out their failures so that no one looks at ours. We hide under the tent of our pride. We hide behind weak arguments and excuses fueled more by self-pity and emotional wounds than truth.

Learn from all the above. You can't hide from God. He sees around the other side of the tree. He already knows. You're only hiding yourself from that which is your hope and remedy. It's like being in jail and hiding from the parole board. They are the ones who can set you free, but you choose not to appear before them, and remain behind bars.

"I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5).

There is only one place we all need to hide...

Behind the Cross
Perry Crisp

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Due Date with Disney

My first trip to Disney World was not all that spectacular. I've seen pictures but I don't recall a thing about it. My older siblings sure seemed to have had a good time, though. Lynn and Mark had bright smiles and eager anticipation written all over their faces...according to the polaroid snapshots.

I didn't have much to smile about. From the looks of things, I only got to ride one ride over and over again. We might as well have stayed home, as far as I was concerned. Disney World was, to me, no different from anywhere else I'd ever been. Wherever my mother went, I had to go. I didn't have a choice. I was still in the womb.

Oh well. At least I got in free!

Church is like that for a lost person to some degree. The only difference is, I was alive. Lost people are spiritually dead.

Yet, neither of us could connect with our surroundings. I couldn't feel what my brother and sister felt, taste what they tasted, or see what they saw. I was there, but I was barricaded and surrounded by a bubble of flesh that kept me cut off from all that they were experiencing.

The man or woman who does not have a living relationship with Jesus feels the same way in a church that's alive. He or she won't feel what the brothers and sisters feel. Nor can they taste and see what surrounds them because they, too, are surrounded by a bubble of flesh that keeps them cut off and detached from what is going on around them spiritually.

Interesting paradox. Because I was inside my mom, the physical world was dead to me. Yet when Jesus lives inside us, the spiritual world comes alive to us! And we get in free!

I went back to Disney World nearly nine years ago. It was a very different experience for me than the one I had 37 years earlier. I was in the same place. But this time, I had been born. I was no longer trapped inside a cocoon of flesh.

The same thing happens to a person who is born again and goes back to the same church he or she went to before. A new spiritual awakening occurs when the flesh gives way to the Spirit.

Jesus said, "You must be born again" because "that which is born of flesh is (only) flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (a new reality that cannot be known in the flesh alone)" (John 3:6-7, parenthesis mine).

By the way, I compared pictures of my second trip to Disney World with pictures from my first trip. My smile is much more noticeable.

There's a picture of me with Goofy but you can't tell which one's which...
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Getting to the "Bottom" of Discipline

Dad, I hope you read this. This is one of your favorite stories to tell whenever I ask you to preach in my absence. And, by the way, Dad - thanks for everything. You're the greatest dad, pastor, husband, and man I've ever known. I love you.

Whenever someone tells me that I look just like you, Dad, I bark back an answer that sounds just like you. I always say, "I keeping hoping I'll grow out of it." Thanks for giving me a sense of humor. But in all honesty, I hope I do look like you. Not just in physical appearance. But in my whole person. On with the story!

There are several things my readers should know to understand the whole story.
This is the part Dad always leaves out when telling it. I must plead my case, you understand.

First, I was ADD before ADD was invented. It certainly wasn't excusable. Back in those days, your parents just grabbed an ear and twisted, or slapped the backside of your head. If that didn't work, they applied a few solid reminders to your backside. Second, church pews didn't have cushions in those days. It was bone on wood for a solid hour. And finally, it was Andy's fault. He was my best friend. He folded a bulletin into a paper football and thumped it at me first!

But I was the one who got caught. Dad was behind the pulpit preaching his heart out to the good folks of First Baptist, Bevil Oaks, Texas. Andy and I were playing paper football. I scored. As everyone knows, when you score a touchdown in paper football, you get to kick an extra point.

Andy made a goal post with his fingers and thumbs on the sitting part of the pew. I held the pointy end of the paper football up with my left index finger and thumped the ball with my right one. It not only cleared Andy's finger-goal-post, it cleared the top of the pew, too. Dad saw it.

He stopped preaching. I stopped breathing. I didn't want to look toward the eyes of wrath, but I did. Yep. They were looking at me. Through me. They were reading my future. I heard more from Dad's eyes that morning than from his sermon. Those eyes said,
"Son, you're getting a whoopin' when you get home."

For the rest of the service, I tried everything short of walking the aisle and getting saved to make up for my transgression. But I knew that extra point was going to cost me dearly.

I ran home after church and looked for a hiding place. The toy box was too full. The shelf in the closet was too high. Under the bed was too obvious. But I ran out of time and ducked under the bed when I heard Dad enter the house.

He didn't even look for me. He spoke with voice and belt simultaneously. I heard, "Perry, come to my room NOW!" The leather belt slapped loudly against each belt loop as he ripped it out. It was like the low-humming music in a horror movie.

I crawled out from under the bed, walked toward my dad's room with my head hung low, completely surrendered. Dad was sitting on his bed with belt in hand. He said, "Now, son, this is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you."

With one last desperate plea, I cried,
"Couldn't I just cry and save us both a lot of pain?"

I missed the point. The point of discipline is not pain or tears. It is correction. I confused the reason for discipline with the results of discipline. Obviously, this wasn't my first rodeo. I'd grabbed my ankles a few times before. Okay, so it was more than a few.

Dad didn't want to make me cry. He loved me and wanted me to respect him. More importantly, he wanted me to respect God. I thought crying was the purpose of this exercise. Just like we often think the trials and disciplining we go through in life is meant to torture us and make us feel bad.

I knew my Dad better than that. I should have known that what he was doing was for my own good. We ought to know God better than that, too. God isn't mean or evil. God is good. God wants only the best for His children. So He disciplines us when we choose that which leads us astray or could harm us.

God sees the snake in the tree coiled behind the apple we reach for.

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Proverbs 3:11-12, NIV).

Thinking I should've bought Dad some suspenders for Father's Day after this incident...

I love you, Dad,
Perry Crisp

Monday, February 9, 2009

How the Greatest War Was Won

Two opposing forces, Flesh and Little Spirit, do battle with one another constantly. Little Spirit fights hard against Flesh, but loses control with nearly every battle.

The Law was brought in to restrain and control Flesh. But the Law's demands were too much for both Flesh and Little Spirit. Neither could ever satisfy the Law. The Law had pinned them both and had become a weight that smothered and crushed them.

Into the arena stepped Big Brother Spirit. Big Brother Spirit came from the Maker of the Law and met the demands of the Law perfectly. He never failed once to meet the stringent demands of the Law.

Big Brother Spirit delivered the Law a crushing blow, thus releasing the Law's grip on Little Spirit. So that now, every little spirit that reaches a hand toward Big Brother Spirit can find release and freedom from the death-grip of the Law.

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18, HCSB). Go back up four paragraphs and replace the name "Little Spirit" with your name and insert "Jesus" in place of "Big Brother Spirit" and "God" in place of "Maker of the Law." Now, read it again.

God gave us the law to show us the things that are wrong and the things that we should avoid. But the law only points out sin. It does not change the sinner. A burglar alarm does the same thing. It points out a burglar, but has no power to change the burglar's behavior. It can't arrest a burglar, detain a burglar or rehabilitate a burglar. All it can do is spot a burglar and point him out.

The law never died for you. It just points fingers at you. You can try with all your might to serve it, but failure is inevitable. It is too heavy a burden for a sinner.

But Jesus - Big Brother Spirit - DID die for you. You now have the privilege of living with Him as His Spirit lives inside you. If you will accept Jesus as your personal Savior and friend, His Spirit will make His home in your heart and guide you away from the bad and toward the good.

Galatians 2:20,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Delivery Repealed

A friend of mine baked a nice hot pie and delivered it to the house of a grieving family. She was surprised no one came to the door when she knocked, but assumed the family was at the funeral home making arrangements, so she let herself in and left the pie on the breakfast table.

As she drove away from the house, she passed the house where the grieving family ACTUALLY lived. It dawned on her: she just walked into a stranger's house and left a fresh baked pie!

Faced with such a dilemma, most of us would have kept that a secret, gone back home, baked another pie, and delivered it to the right house. But not DeAnna.

She went back to the "wrong" house where she left the pie. This time, she didn't even knock. She walked in and went to the breakfast table to get the pie.

But it was gone! She panicked. Was she in ANOTHER wrong house? No. THIS is the table she left the pie on. She began looking around without ever deducing that the missing pie was a strong indication that someone in this house was HOME!

The oven was on. The little red light was glowing. She opened the oven and found her pie! Someone in the house found the pie she left and put it in the oven to warm it up! Did they question how the pie got there? Did they search the house for the Pie Fairy?

Just then DeAnna heard a toilet flush. Though most of us would not be in this position to begin with, we certainly at this point, would run like the wind...right? Not DeAnna.

She grabbed the pie...and, with dignity and grace, walked out as if she were returning to her own home for a set of forgotten keys. She got back into her car and out of the driveway before any crazed residents came running out the door.

DeAnna successfully delivered the warm pie to the right house straight from the wrong house. On her way home, she began thinking about the poor soul who came back for a pie that was no longer there.

A verse of Scripture comes to mind: "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away..." (Job 1:21).

Put yourself in the house slippers of the old man who lived alone in that house of the appearing and disappearing pie. You get out of bed, walk into the kitchen, grab the milk from the fridge, and saunter over to the breakfast table. There sits a freshly baked home-made pie. You rub your eyes and it's still there.

There's no note. No one else is in the house. No cars are in the driveway. No one you know would make you a pie, enter your house, and leave it on your table.

What are your options? You could question your sanity, deny the existence of the pie as a figment of your imagination, and go back to bed. Or you could tally the existence of the pie up to a cosmic accident where a series of tasty molecules collided and burped out a pie.

Or you could believe that the existence of the pie meant the existence of a pie maker. Even though you don't see the pie maker or know who the pie maker is or where she came from, you know that she exists. You don't know who to thank or how this delicious gift got here, but by golly, it's a pie and it's going in the oven!

Which option makes the most sense? Even if you didn't know DeAnna's story. Even if all you knew was what the owner of the wrong house knew. You would still believe someONE caused this to happen, not that someTHING just randomly happened. The existence of a pie means the existence of a pie maker.

The world we live in is ten billion times more intricately designed than the best pie. There cannot possibly be a design so magnificent without a magnificent Designer. Yet no matter how much sense that makes, we can't teach it to our kids in school.

As for the second half of the story...if you are that same old man who found the pie and you put it in the oven to warm it up while you ponder the mystery of the pie in the "thinking room" of your house, and then come back to find the oven empty --- then it would be pretty easy to convince you that there's a devil, too! But that's another story...

Knows Who to Thank,
Perry Crisp