Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Way to Safety

A passenger plane failed to take off properly, crashed through the fences and barriers at the end of the runway, skidded along its belly a great distance before doing a nose dive into a nearby river late at night. The aircraft was half in and half out of the powerful river current. The craft remained intact, but the wings and tail section of the plane remained on land while the nose, cockpit, and business-class section floated on the river. Only the pilot and the co-pilot knew that the front half of the plane was on the river, but the pilot was dazed and nearly unconscious from the crash.

The co-pilot knew that the strong current made the exits at the front end of the plane too dangerous. Anyone exiting the plane in that river would drown in the darkness. The co-pilot acted quickly. The crash knocked all the power out. He could not call the flight attendants or calm the passengers with the PA system.

Knowing that the primary exits in a crash are near the cockpit and that the flight attendants might soon try to open the forward doors, he exited the cockpit, turned on his flashlight, and began directing everyone to the back of the aircraft. Flight attendants were located at the front and rear of the plane, and the ones at the rear could not hear the co-pilot over the voices of panic and creaking noises of the crumpled plane.

The co-pilot instructed the flight attendants at the front of the plane not to open the doors because the water would come flooding in and could possibly pull the entire plane into the river. He then pushed his way through the frightened passengers toward the rear of the plane, encouraging everyone to remain calm. Every few rows, the co-pilot instructed everyone that the only safe exit was at the rear of the craft.

This process took a great deal of time and the passengers were getting more and more anxious to get off the plane. Fear spread throughout the craft. Someone shouted, "What if the plane catches on fire with these fully-loaded fuel tanks?" Another shouted, "The front exit is the largest. Why aren't we exiting there?" Yet another said, "If we use all the exits, we can all get off of here quicker!"

By the time the co-pilot reached the flight attendants at the rear of the plane, chaos had ensued. People began panicking and pushing in both directions. Others argued with those who were panicking to listen to the co-pilot and do what he says.

The co-pilot opened the rear emergency door and began safely disembarking the passengers. He used his flashlight to guide the frightened passengers toward him while the flight attendants on the ground took them to a safe, open area away from any potential explosion. Emergency personnel from the nearby airport began to arrive on the scene.

Little did the co-pilot know what was happening at the front of the craft. A few of the passengers near the cockpit chose not to follow the co-pilot or heed his instructions. Instead, they unleashed their panic on the flight attendants guarding the large exit door, shoved them aside, and tugged on the exit handle to get the door opened.

Thankfully, the flow of the river forced the door to stay shut long enough for everyone else, including the injured pilot and the flight attendants to get safely off the plane. Multiple attempts were made to control the panicked passengers and lead them safely to the rear of the plane, but they continued pushing against the door that would lead to their death should they succeed in their mission.

Finally, the emergency personnel from airport security boarded the craft at the risk of their own lives and forcefully removed the remaining passengers. Once the passengers who had defied the co-pilot's plan of escape were on the ground, they looked back toward the front of the craft, saw the powerful river that would have swept them to their deaths, and hung their heads in shame. Not long after everyone was safely removed from the sight of the crash, the force of the river overpowered the nose of the plane and wrestled the front half of the craft to the river's bottom.

The co-pilot's quick action and knowledge of the situation saved the lives of every person on board.

But wait. What if this story was a parable? What if the crumpled aircraft was symbolic of the world, the co-pilot was Jesus, and the front and rear exits of the craft represented hell and heaven, respectively?

Apply today's logic of tolerance and the world's overbearing and distorted hatred of anything that remotely appears to be intolerance of other's religious views to this situation. If YOU were on that plane, would you accuse the co-pilot of being intolerant for insisting that there is only one way to safety? Would you call the emergency personnel who forced you off the plane a bunch of narrow-minded bigots?

As a Christian, I believe the Bible is the Word of God. As such, I believe it is truth, not opinion. When Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6), I believe Him. When Peter said, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), I believe him. When Paul wrote, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9), I believe it!

So, when I stand at the corner of sin and salvation and point people in the direction of Jesus alone and you think me intolerant, bigoted, and narrow-minded, your disdain is for with the wrong person. Your argument is really with Jesus, Peter, and Paul (all three were Jews, by the don't think me anti-semitic, either).

What would you think of the co-pilot had he simply pushed his way through the passengers, shared his opinion that he thought maybe the back exit was the best, but then said, "Use whatever exit you think is best for you," and then left everyone in danger to figure it out for themselves?

Think for just a moment about the passengers who insisted on using the front exit. They were convinced they knew more than anyone else on board. They were determined to use the front exit, believing totally that it was a way to safety. It was only AFTER they were off the plane that they saw the error of their ways. Yet for them in this story, they were still safe. They just had to deal with their own shame and stubbornness that nearly cost them their lives.

But eternity is a different issue. You must decide to accept and follow Jesus before you disembark this physical world. You must live eternally with whatever decision you make now. Weigh your arguments carefully. Research truth honestly. This is no place to casually accept the fluff of pop culture. This is the biggest decision of your life.

This Way,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Man Fishing

Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Seems simple enough. Followers of Jesus have been given a clear task: Go fishing to find others who will become followers of Jesus.

Oh my, how we have complicated that call! We have become species specialists, selectively fishing for certain fish. The Sunday morning boat ramps are filled with favoritism. The Bass Boat Baptists hit the boat ramp first. While they are content to leave the Crappie to the Charismatics and the Catfish to the Catholics, they are divided even among themselves over how to fish for bass, selective about which bass is worth catching, and suspicious about other fishermen who are more successful.

Some want to bed fish and yank those sinners right out of bed on Sunday morning. Others want to finesse fish and lure them in without them realizing they're caught until it's too late. Still others are looking only for "keeper fish." They go after the big fish. Oh, they don't mind catching an average fish, but they eventually toss it back and forget about it. Let them land a lunker and they'll parade that catch in front of everyone! It'll even make the "Baptist Mess-O-Fish-enger" paper. They are quite proud of their trophy fish.

It is dangerous to get the Bass Boat Baptists together for too long. It won't be long before they'll divide up amongst themselves arguing over everything from which bait is better to which species of bass is better. The topwater lovers will cluster and preach against the crank baiters. The largemouth crowd will speak derisively about the smallmouth. Before long, another new club will be formed.

To make matters worse, the Bass Boat Baptists won't share a boat ramp with Pontoon Presbyterians because they have more than fish in their coolers and the Canoeing Church of Christs won't even use the same boat ramp as any of the others because they don't believe in motors.

It is puzzling to observe such behavior. The call of Jesus seems simple enough. Yet, instead of fishing, much of our time is spent maintaining and polishing our boats, admiring our gear, bragging about last year's catch, fussing over favorite fishing holes, fuming at another boat because they took one of our fish, and taking classes on everything from better knot-tying to what color boat cover to use.

The craziest behavior of all takes place away from the water. In alarming numbers, fishermen sit cross-armed at the boat ramp or on the bank or in their driveways with their boats still on the trailer, wondering why the fish won't jump out of the water and flop toward them! It's as if they expect the fish to jump in their boats and baptize themselves in their livewells!

Jesus didn't call us to fish for men for the pleasure of fishing, but for the importance of the men. It's not about our pleasure. It's about His passion. We've made fishing for men too much about the act of fishing and not enough about the lost condition of man. Jesus doesn't care what your boat looks like or whether you use the same spinner bait as Peter. Jesus isn't judging you by how many fish you catch or how big they are. He just wants you to fish.

If we'll do the fishing, He'll do the catching.

Oh, and by the way, Jesus doesn't practice catch and release. Why should we?

Hooked on Jesus,
Perry Crisp

PS: The reason I am being harder on the Baptists than the others is because I are* one.
*(Intentional use of poor grammar)

Monday, April 12, 2010

What Was the Question?

One afternoon when my daughter, Tori, was 3 or 4 years old, she was spending some quality time with her parents. She was a cute, bright-eyed, blonde-haired little girl with lots of questions. She will be 20 soon and still, in my unbiased opinion, fits the above description, yet without as many questions.

I don't recall exactly what prompted me to ask Tori a question, but I will never forget my question nor her answer. Whatever she said prior to my question caused me to laugh. Then I asked, "Tori, you're not gonna be one of those dumb blondes, are you?" I expected a giggle and a "Noooooo" in reply.

She gave me something better. Her face went serious. She furrowed her cute little eyebrows, turned to her mom and asked, "Is me, mommy?"

Sometimes, questions answer themselves.

Thankfully, she is anything but dumb and has excelled in academics and athletics (with only rare visits to Dumb Blondeville). But that moment was classic. Don't you love those types of memories? The joy of reminiscing and remembering the blessings and special times of life is a valuable gift.

Spring has finally decided to spring. The trees and grass remember how to turn green again. The birds have remembered their songs. The momma deer remembers how to nurture her newborn. This is a good day to reminisce. A good time to think back over the blessings of God in your life.

The Psalmist wrote, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago" (Psalm 77:11, NIV). Miracles don't have to defy the laws of nature to be miraculous. Something as natural as an unforgettable moment between a parent and a child can rank among the miraculous and is worthy of celebration. File it under the miracle of life, of love, or of unexpected surprises.

Stop what you're doing right now. Take a moment to reminisce. To cherish. To treasure what and who belongs in your box of valuable memories. Then smile and thank God for His miracles.

Do you remember?
Perry Crisp

Monday, April 5, 2010

Memories from a "Delightful" Childhood

Somewhere a frail, aged, retired elementary school teacher is sitting in her rocking chair, combing through memories of her students. She has a stack of class photos from the late '60's to the late 90's in her lap as she sips from a cup of quivering tea.

She smiles at her pictures of all those bright, shiny young faces. Boys and girls whose lives she once touched are now all grown up with children (and in some cases, grandchildren) of their own. She picks up the class picture from 1972 and smiles at each face...until she gets to the back row, far left.

Her smile turns to an evil scowl. Spittle rolls down her chin. She reaches a trembling hand out and picks up a pair of scissors from her table. Grimacing and muttering indiscernible words, she steadies her trembling hand as best she can and begins cutting the picture of one of the students out!

Cute little boy. Big smile. Blonde hair. Hole in his jeans at both knees. Wearing a blue t-shirt that has the number 18 on it...


To say that I was an outstanding student is accurate if you separate the "out" from the "standing." I was usually out standing in the hall waiting for my next encounter with the Principal.

It wasn't that I lacked correction at home. Trust me, I got plenty of that! I was just really good at being mischievous. The "imagination" side of my brain leaked over into the "think twice before you do that" side of my brain.

Back in the day when we had only wooden pews in church, most kids could get away with playing paper football during the sermon without the preacher noticing. Not me! Nooooo... I would get so into the paper football game that I would not only forget that I was in church, I would forget that my dad was the preacher!

When I heard the name "Perry" rumble from the pulpit, I knew enough Bible to know that that particular name was not in the Book. Whenever Brother Crisp had to call a time-out from preaching to gain the attention of his youngest child, I knew I was in trouble. There was no such thing as "time out" in my dad's parenting manual.

Those were the longest sermons my dad ever preached. He had my attention for the rest of the service. All I could think about was where I could hide when I got home. My plan was always the same: Sit still through the rest of the sermon. When church is over, run home, grab the cookies, and hide. Maybe -- just maybe -- Dad will forget all about the 30 yard field goal attempt that landed in Mrs. Whitmeyer's hair.

He never forgot. It didn't matter where I hid, his voice penetrated into my hiding place and drew me like a zombie out of hiding and into his bedroom. On one such occasion, I looked up at my dad and said, "Can't I just cry real hard and save us both a lot of pain?"

Discipline is not fun. But it is often needed. It's like deodorant. You can tell when someone hasn't had any. The Bible (that book that doesn't have the name "Perry" in it) tells us that discipline is a good thing. "But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline; don't sulk under his loving correction. It's the child he loves that God corrects" (Proverbs 3:11-12, The Message).

The New King James Version reads a little differently: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights." According to that translation, my parents were very delighted in me!

I'm thankful for the discipline I received at home from loving parents who kept me on the right path when I was prone to wander off it. I'm also grateful for a heavenly Father who loves me enough that He will get my attention with discipline in order to protect me from great harm.

My apologies to all the poor saints staring at class pictures with holes in it, and to Mrs. Whitmeyer for all the paper footballs that entrenched themselves in your bouffant hairdo during church.

I Put the Haste in Chasten,
Perry Crisp