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.