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.