Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Armadillos for Jesus!

My deep sleep was interrupted before five o'clock this morning by a barking dog. One of my own. Pepper was somewhere in the house barking so that someone would get up and let him out of the house. There were only two of us in the house, and apparently neither of us wanted to be the "someone" to get up and let Pepper out. He barked. Neither of us moved. He barked louder. She flinched and finally got up to let Pepper out.

Although I won the battle of playing opossum, it didn't matter. The damage was done. Deep sleep didn't return. Just as I managed to slip away into the wonderful world of almost sleep, Pepper started barking again. This time he was outside wanting back in. I let out a heavy chunk of disgruntled sighs and mumbling and went to the door to let Pepper back in. He wasn't there.

I went to another outside door. No Pepper. No barking. No glasses! I couldn't see a thing beyond fifteen feet, especially in the dark, but I could hear something in the leaves. "Pepper!" I whisper-shouted. Nothing. "PEPPER!" I shouted without the whisper. Still nothing.

I returned to the bedroom for my glasses, huffing and puffing the whole way. No need to share the exact thoughts that were parading through my mind. Use your imagination. I put on my glasses, turned on all the outside lights, and couldn't find Pepper anywhere. I called off the search and destroy...I mean, search and rescue mission, turned out the lights, and crawled back in bed.

My mumbling and grumbling eventually silenced and my body began to relax. Sleep began to reenter my life when I heard Pepper barking again. It was faint. Distant. But just enough to annoy the sleep out of someone. I put my head under the pillow. Unfortunately, it is one of those pillows that doesn't smush. It just teeters. I could still hear the faint barking of my former precious-pup-now-turned-nemesis.

My resolve to sleep won out after a few minutes. A few minutes later, I was awakened again to the tune of Sargeant Pepper's lonely, one-dog barking band. I repeated the huffing and disgruntled behavior of my earlier antics, turned on the outside lights, and there he was -- Pepper. Ten feet away. Standing six inches behind a busy armadillo. All along, Pepper had been barking and growling at an armored intruder.

Apparently, Pepper had spent nearly an hour pestering this opossum-on-the-half-shell. I watched as Pepper growled, barked, scratched, gnawed and maintained hot pursuit of the armadillo all over the yard. The armadillo wasn't impressed, nor was he (she? I didn't ask) deterred from the task at hand. The armadillo kept his nose and claws to the ground and adapted Dory's attitude from "Finding Nemo" --- "Just keep digging. Just keep digging."

I finally persuaded Pepper to call off the dogs and come inside. He looked up at me as if he deserved a treat or a commendation. He went back to bed disappointed. I went back to bed ten minutes before my alarm went off.

Pepper's harrassment of the armadillo reminds me of the devil. The devil does not want followers of Jesus to follow Jesus. So, he tags along to distract, deter, and strike fear into the believer to keep the believer from wholehearted devotion to Jesus.

While satan definitely has a bark and a bite, the believer is protected by the armor of God. The devil can't defeat the believer. The believer can defeat himself by allowing fear and apathy to enter his heart. But the devil holds no power over the blood-bought saints of God. Like Pepper, the devil can follow, fuss, and try to frighten us all he wants, but the only ability he has to be successful is that which we allow.

If you have personally invited Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, you have more than salvation. You have protection. Jesus doesn't just armor some. He armors all.

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11).

Perry Crisp

Monday, January 25, 2010

Take it to the Bank(s)

A beautiful river divided two small villages in a remote country. The villagers on each side of the river lived primatively. The village on the east bank of the river was only ten miles south of the village on the west bank of the river. The two villages were not enemies, but they believed the gods had separated them by the river for a reason, so they had no contact with one another. Both villages had a common problem. They had no knowledge of what they could not see -- including germs. The occasional swim in the river was the closest they ever came to bathing. They certainly never washed their hands or food.

Life in each village was quite fragile. Though they had developed an amazing immune system to some diseases, their bodies could not withstand all that they ingested. Rarely did anyone live past fifty years of age.

An American missionary made his way up the river and was welcomed by the village on the east side of the river. The villagers listened to and observed this forty-year-old man with curious enthusiasm. They heard him speak of God. They were surprised to know that God had a Son who came to the earth. All that they learned from this visitor, they embraced. He taught them how to wash their food and their hands before eating so that the invisible sicknesses could not enter their bodies. They were astonished at such news, but readily accepted this new practice.

The missionary showed the villagers a picture of his family. They all wanted to see it at the same time. This strange paper in his hand that reflected his image and the images of others like him was fascinating to their eyes. They enjoyed the picture so much that he pulled every picture he had out of his wallet, including a picture of his own mother and father. The villagers pointed and gasped and wanted to know who they were and why their hair was white and their skin was creased. They had never seen a seventy-year-old human.

The missionary was happy to inform them that their new practice of washing and hygiene might enable them to live longer. They rejoiced and celebrated the news. Seeing the visual evidence in the picture encouraged them to continue the practice and the results proved true to the missionary's words. The greater news was that their newfound faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ, would allow the soul inside them to live forever, even after the body died.

That village was never the same. Over time, the average life expectancy of the villagers increased. They continually welcomed additional medical missionaries into their village and gladly accepted immunizations and learned how to better take care of themselves. They grew and prospered in both health and spirit.

As the knowledge of the villagers on the east side of the river grew, so did their compassion. They told their missionary friend, the one who first visited them and brought them such great news, about another village ten miles up the river that needed to learn all that he had taught them.

The missionary quickly made his way up the river. He found the village on the west side of the river. It was an exact replication of the first village he had visited. The west side villagers welcomed the missionary. He enthusiastically shared the same good news with the second village that he had shared with the first.

Yet, their response was not the same. They began to shake their heads. They did more than doubt his words. They became upset at his intrusion into their lives. He tried to show them the same pictures, but they screamed at the sight of them and forced him to get back into his boat and leave.

No outsiders were ever welcomed into that village again. All things remained the same in that village, just as they wished.

Jesus went from village to village teaching, healing, and performing mighty miracles that only God could do. He brought good news and great healing to town after town. Yet, when He taught in Nazareth, His words were not welcomed. His ways were not followed. He was met with intense rejection. Matthew wrote the following post script when this occurred: "Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).

I wonder if the same principle is true in our own our own churches. Many churches today continue to be the same villages they were twenty, sixty, and a hundred years ago. What part does faith play in our personal and church growth...or lack thereof? It is a painful, yet necessary question to ask.

This can be taken to an extreme and an extremely wrong conclusion - that no one is ever healed or no church will ever grow without a perfect faith (Luke 17:11-17, for example). But wouldn't it also be foolish to deny that faith is a great help to our spiritual health and ecclesiastical vitality and stubborn unbelief can be a tremendous hindrance?

You and I can never go wrong trusting the voice and venue of God. His word and His way is tried and true.

Perry Crisp

Monday, January 18, 2010


A cartoon drawing made its way to my desk many years ago that defines perseverance. This particular cartoon swept through fax machines all over the country for quite a while during the early 90's.

It took me a while, but I finally obtained another copy of it on the internet and have attached it here as a reminder to us all to HANG IN THERE! It is a cartoon of a large marsh bird standing at the edge of a pond. The bird has recently scooped up a frog. The frog's hind legs are shown hanging out of the bird's beak.

The bird has quite a startled look on his face. His eyes look like they are about to pop out. Why? Because the frog, despite being half-swallowed, has managed to get a death grip on the bird's throat with his front froggy-legs.

The message at the bottom of the drawing reads, "It ain't over till it's over!"

Someone needs to be reminded of that today. Either you or someone you know has received some bad news. Possibly even devastating news. Life has hit hard. Some unwelcomed thing has waded into your pond, snuck up on you, and scooped you up without warning.

Someone else needs to be reminded of the death-grip frog for a different reason. Not because of bad news, but because of bad judgment. You blew it. Or someone you know has. For whatever reason, you (or they) defied God's Word, ran right through a holy barricade, and right into trouble. Ugh.

I know how you feel. I've been both "someone's." I have had bad news and used bad judgment in my life, but I have good news for you. There is life after Ugh. Failure isn't final. Bad news does not mean "The End." Just the beginning of a new long as you turn yourself completely over to the Author of Life.

Take who you are and what you have and give it to God. Surrender it all to Him. Are you angry? It's okay. He's a big God. He can handle it. Take it to Him. Are you depressed? He's quite the Comforter and Healer. Are you lost? He's not. He not only knows where He's going, He knows the way for you, as well. He has a path and a plan for your life. Give yourself to Him.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1st Corinthians 15:58, NIV).

Paul wrote those words to encourage his fellow believers to have the kind of faith that hangs on, tightens its grip, and stays strong. Paul was a lot like that frog. Life tried to swallow and silence Paul over and over again, but he held on. May the determination of an apostle and an amphibian inspire us today.

Be encouraged by the Apostle Paul and the half-swallowed frog. Hang in there! Tighten your grip. It isn't over yet!

Offering the marsh bird a glass of water...
since he obviously has a...
frog in his throat.
I know, I hiss...

Perry Crisp

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Invisible Chains

Sweet Gum Road was the most traveled road in our backwoods neighborhood of southeast Texas. It was the artery which gave passage to every other road, street, drive, and dead end (what fancy folks call a cul-de-sac) in our neighborhood.

Therefore, Sweet Gum Road was the obvious choice for mischief. The invisible chain prank was one of our favorites. My pal, Andy, and I would get directly across the road from each other and kneel down (facing each other). We wrapped our hands around an invisible chain and focused our gaze intently on our hands. We never looked at the oncoming cars because people have a tendency to wonder what you're looking at.

Sure enough, a car would approach and the driver would inevitably slow down to try to see what was in our hands. When the front bumper of the car got even with our invisible chain, we would shout, "PULL!" and jerk our hands up like a fisherman setting the hook. Without fail, the drivers of those pranked cars would either slam on the brakes or swerve to miss the invisible chain. Then it was time for Andy and me to run into the woods and hide.

Most everyone would get out of their cars and check for invisible chain damage. Quite a few of them would wave a fist or single digit in the air, shout expletives, and leave a burnt rubber offering on the asphalt as they drove away. One or two got out of the car and chased us.

We learned not to pull this prank as darkness neared. You can't see things as clearly. Like sirens on top of a police car, for example. We only had one police car and one policeman. He only had one bullet. But he had a really good spotlight and recognized the preacher's son when he/I ran into the woods. He didn't chase us or shoot at us. He just turned the corner, pulled into my driveway, and went into my house to have a talk with my dad. They talked a long time.

A couple of months ago, I was driving down a two-lane highway through the woods. Ahead of me, I saw two boys. One on one side of the road and one on the other. They were both squatted down. I smiled. As I passed them, they shouted and pulled at their invisible chain. I didn't swerve, slam on the brakes, or shout expletives. I smiled and waved (with all five digits, of course).

The difference between my reaction to the invisible chain and the reaction of others was experiential knowledge. I knew by experience that the boys had nothing. They had no power but the power of the unknown. The power that tugs at our fears.

That's all the devil has on those who have an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ, too. The devil has limited weaponry. Fear, doubt, and ignorance of truth are his primary weapons. All invisible chains. They work well on those who don't know better.

But the devil made a big mistake and tried to pull his invisible chain on Jesus. Because the devil is always in darkness, he couldn't see clearly who Jesus was. Jesus' weaponry consisted of one life and one sacrifice. His own. Jesus' death and resurrection took both the fun and the power out of Satan's chains.

Jesus also had a really good spotlight. Before He went to the cross, He shined that light on the devil's chains to show us that the devil has nothing on us when we follow God. "And He (Jesus) said to them, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you'" (Luke 10:18-19).

Don't be punked by the devil. The scars in Jesus' hands have removed the threat of the invisible chains in the hands of the devil.

Trusting the Nail-Scarred Hands,
Perry Crisp