Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seeing Triangles

Three Old Testament passages completed a triangle in my heart as I studied the Bible this morning. When all three came together, I felt a significant peace. But not until I saw them side by side.

Something was there, but I didn't understand it until I saw the three passages next to each other. Let's see if you see it.

Genesis 39:2, "The Lord was with Joseph."

Psalm 46:1, "God is...a very present help in trouble."

Jeremiah 29:13, "And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

Do you see it? "The Lord WAS." "God IS." "You WILL."

Past. Present. Future.

That's MY story. That's YOUR story. That's OUR story. A story the way it should be and could be written, if only we would let go and believe.

PAST. "The Lord was with Joseph" becomes huge when you know Joe's story. He was loved by his father, but hated by his brothers. He had a lot of brothers, so there was plenty of hate to go around. Some of his brothers wanted to kill him. Others just wanted to dump him in a hole and leave him for dead. But Joseph had just enough brothers that one of them planned to come back later and get him out of the hole. Then again, Joseph had just enough brothers that one of them wanted to make a profit off of him. So, they agreed to sell their brother as a slave.

Joseph went from being a treasured son to a dust-eating slave dragged behind a caravan of foreigners and eventually sold at First Monday Trade Days in Egypt. That is when the Bible says, "The Lord was with Joseph."

In spite of your past, God is with you. In spite of your pain, God is with you. In spite of all wounds, self-inflicted or otherwise, God is with you. No matter who you are, what you've done, what's been done to you, or where you've been, you can rise above your beginnings. God can make a masterpiece out of the ashes of your past. God can help you build a new bridge to a new life and new relationships even when you have done your best to burn all bridges.

Have you been rejected? So was Joseph. Have you discovered that the people you thought loved you really didn't? So did Joseph. But "the Lord was with Joseph." Those words change everything! With God, yesterday doesn't have to poison tomorrow. Take your focus off of those who hurt or mistreated you. Put your focus on the God who never will.

PRESENT. "God is...a very present help in trouble." Don't buy the lie. Becoming a Christian doesn't turn you into a problem-free, unsinning saint who never has a bad day, a bad thought, bad breath, or never makes a bad decision. Becoming a Christian means Christ has forgiven you of your sins and moved into your life. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

You ARE going to mess up. You ARE going to find your way to an occasional pit of trouble. God IS a very present help when you do. Pit-dwelling doesn't have to be permanent when you know a guy with a rope. God has the rope, the strength, and the desire to pull you out if you will call out to Him.

When you do mess up, Satan is going to quickly write out your grade, and it will be an "F." The devil loves giving out "F's" to Christians:

"You Failed! That makes you a Failure!"

"How can you call yourself a Christian?"

"God is going to drop you like a hot potato now that you've done that!"

But God doesn't. He is a VERY PRESENT HELP! When your clock strikes "trouble" or "failure" or any other point on the darkest hours of your life, God is very present. When God says He will never leave you, believe it. You might FEEL abandoned because guilt says you deserve it. But the opposite is true. At that very moment, you are more than ever the object of His love, concern, and attention.

FUTURE. "And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." There is no greater guarantee. There is no greater Guarantor. It is so simple, yet we so often miss it. Our future, yours and mine, is as great as our ability to pursue God honestly. Tell God all that is in your heart. Tell Him your troubles, your dreams, your weaknesses, your wounds, your prejudices, your shallow fears, and your deep thoughts. Open up and let it out.

He doesn't listen only to King James prayers filled with lofty oratory. In fact, He may not liketh those very much. He listens to the crying kid in us who needs Dad to protect him, love him, accept him, and guide him. Ohhhh, how He loves childlike prayers!

So there you have it. The triangle completed. God was with us. God is with us. God will be with us. I can face the day and sleep through the night with that in my heart. Can't you?

Triangled by God,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bleeve It!

"As you have believed, so let it be done for you" (Matthew 8:13). And so often it is.

These words of Jesus were for a specific situation where a man with an ailing servant asked Jesus to intervene. Jesus commended the man's faith as the best faith He'd seen, even among the Israelites.

But even outside of that context, Jesus' words bring a universal truth to light: As you have believed, let it be done for you.

Some people say we get what we pay for. But then I see my tax dollars at work and beg to differ. By watching today's children in Wal-Mart, I'm tempted to think we get what we cry for. In our miserable excuse for a justice system, it appears we get what we sue for. At the doctor's office, we get what we are insured for...sometimes. In politics, we get what someone else was bribed for.

But honestly...don't we so often get what we "faith" for? The hypochondriac's tombstone reads, "I told you I was sick" for a reason. What we believe impacts what we receive. (I'm going to type that sentence again in it's own paragraph and I'm going to type slow because I want you to see it and let it sink in).

What we believe impacts what we receive.

And what we believe is not always what we say we believe. Church folk love to hear a good message on a variety of subjects they have no desire to practice. Many "a-mens" on Sunday are not followed through on Monday. "Name it and claim it" is not nearly as effective as "Believe it and step toward it." Most churches are where they want to be right now, not where they SAY they want to be. As we have believed, thus it is being done.

Everywhere God shines light, the devil makes shadow puppets to shed a little darkness over the truth. So every time Jesus tells us of the simplicity of faith and the greatness that can be accomplished if we would only believe, the devil brings in his red-suited lawyers to pick truth apart with deception and lies.

This devotional is done, but our meditation on this truth from Jesus should stay stamped upon our minds for a long time: "As you have believed, so let it be done for you."

You have an outstanding chance of receiving tomorrow what you believe today.

"And his servant was healed THAT SAME HOUR..." (same verse)... I guess Jesus was telling the truth, eh?

What you believe can happen can happen,
Perry Crisp

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Little Debbie

Debbie T. returned to her one bedroom apartment with the words "four to six months" boldly emblazened into her mind. A few weeks earlier, a shadow appeared on one of her test results. That shadow, her doctor discovered, was a fast-growing form of cancer. Deb was faced with the news that she had only a few months to live.

Deb had lived her life without really giving her own eventual demise much thought. Now, it was all she thought about. "But it was just a shadow," she kept repeating through her tears. "How can a shadow kill?"

Eventually, Deb began to take inventory of her life. She looked at herself and her situation. She was a divorced, 57 year-old woman with no children. Her parents had both died before she was 50. Her sister, twelve years ahead of her chronologically, was now 50 years behind her mentally and emotionally, spending her remaining years in a care facility for alzheimer patients. Deb worked as a cashier at a small, family-owned grocery store in rural Louisiana since her divorce fourteen years ago.

The first phone call she made was to her boss, Randy. Through her tears, Deb let Randy know that she would not be coming back to work. In spite of his many efforts to find out why she was crying and quitting her job, Randy soon heard the line go dead. A strange, illogical fear kept Deb from telling anyone that she was dying. It was as if, by saying it aloud, it would make it true.

The second phone call Deb made came two days later. She called her bank to find out how much money she had in her checking and savings accounts. The amount surprised her. She had hoped to have enough money to get away for a few days. She wanted to sit on a beach and watch the sun rise and set. Instead, she had enough money to go practically anywhere she wanted for a week! Upon further investigation, she discovered a sizeable deposit into her account the previous day. Randy.

Randy and his wife and family had always been good to her. She knew she had to tell them what was going on, but she decided she would wait until she returned from her trip. She had to get away. But where? Deb wanted to see at least one place on earth that she had always dreamed of seeing before it was too late.

Deb knew what that one place was --- Hawaii! For years, she watched game shows and dreamed of being a contestant and winning a trip to Hawaii. But it had only always been a fantasy. With Randy's help, she had just enough money to get to California for a week.

A plan developed in Debbie's mind. She would go to California, get on a game show, and win a trip to Hawaii. It seemed simple enough...until she tried to apply as a contestant. The waiting lists did not fit her limited calendar. The tryouts, application forms, and the odds of being selected were not in her favor either. The only game show she could get tickets to immediately was the one she had watched all her life: "The Price is Right."

"The Price is Right" is the one game show that pulls contestants from the audience. She knew the likelihood of being selected as a contestant was a long shot. She knew the chances of winning a trip was an even greater long shot. And the odds of her winning a trip specifically to Hawaii? Just this side of "not-a-chance." But what did she have to lose? At least she would die knowing she finally took a risk on fulfilling her dreams.

To her surprise, an ad on "The Price is Right" website inviting people to be a contestant on the show had a sample contestant name tag that read, "Debra!" It was all she needed to point and click her way toward contestanthood.

With great fear and enormous butterflies in her stomach, she booked a seat in the audience and one on an airplane. She then found the big, luxurious hotel that they always advertise on the game show and booked a room for three nights. The fear of the shadow was driven away by the excitement of going to California and being in a television audience.

This was a huge step for Deb. Her flight left in four days and she didn't sleep for the next three nights. She packed and packed again a dozen times, ignoring all phone calls, emails, and knocks at the door.

Deb felt totally out of place in Los Angeles. She tried to act like a seasoned traveler, but knew she was failing miserably. In spite of her anxieties, she forced her way through LAX, baggage claim, and an unforgettable cab ride to the hotel. As she checked in at the snazziest place she had ever seen, she looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of Richard Gere, only to discover that everyone was looking at her. They had obviously never seen anyone from the other "LA"!

When the door closed behind her in her immaculate hotel room, she let out a gigantic sigh of relief, flung herself onto the soft bed, and let the emotions flow. It was an odd demonstration of grief, laughter, sorrow, satisfaction, disbelief, and relief.

The next day, Debbie sat in the studio audience of "The Price is Right" with a big tag on her shirt that read, "Deb." The process of getting to her seat was all a blur. She vaguely remembered filling out paperwork and going through security, but it was mostly a fuzzy series of events that didn't find a home in her memory.

Deb enjoyed the entire show, but her name wasn't called...until the second half! "Debbie T, come on down! You're the next contestant on 'The Price is Right!'"

Deb couldn't believe it! She didn't jump up and scream. She floated down the aisle in shock. It didn't seem real. When she reached her place in the contestant line-up, tears began to flow down her cheeks. The host of the show saw the tears and tried to help her laugh it off, "Wow. She's crying. That usually only happens backstage BEFORE I go to makeup."

Everyone laughed. Everyone except Deb. She cried harder. The place went silent. Fear gripped Deb like never before. Barely discernible words crept out of her for the first time about her diagnosis and her dream. Before she could stop herself, she blubbered to a studio full of strangers what she had kept from close friends: "A shadow...cancer...four to six months...Hawaii..."

People in the audience gasped. Producers began to whisper. Deb saw their reaction. "What are you DOING?" she thought to herself. She suddenly felt foolish and alone. She ran as fast as she could out of the studio. She didn't stop running until she got to the hotel.

Deb hid in her room for the next two days until time for her flight home. She was miserable. She felt like a total failure, having stood at the plate of "the oppurtunity of a lifetime" and struck out.

When Deb entered her home, the sound of the door closing behind her seemed like the closing of the casket on her hopes and dreams. She went straight to bed and slept for ten hours. "Why wake up?" she thought to herself. "What's the point?"

Deb laid in bed staring at the ceiling fan for another hour before getting up and fixing herself some toast and coffee. She had two messages on her answering machine. One number she recognized. Randy. The other number must have been a telemarketer. She didn't recognize the area code. Deb let both messages sit and blink while she ate her breakfast and started the bathwater in the tub.

While in the tub, the unrecognized area code bounced around in her head until it finally found a home. In Deb's mind, there was almost a "ding, ding, ding" sound that went off. The area code was the same as her hotel in Los Angeles. Deb knew that she had paid her bill before leaving, so she decided to finish the relaxing bath before checking the message.

BEEP. "Debbie T? This is Adam Sandler, producer of 'The Price is Right.' Would you please give me a call? I have something I would like to discuss with you."

BEEP. "Deb? Hey, it's Randy. Listen, I need to talk to you. Can you please call me back?" BEEP.

"The Producer is calling ME?" Deb was shocked, scared, and embarrassed. She had replayed her incident on the show over in her mind ten million times and it always left a painful hole in her stomach. She knew they simply edited her out of the program and called another contestant to take her spot. So, why was Mr. Sandler calling?

Three slight raps on her apartment door jolted Deb out of her attempt to understand Mr. Sandler's message. Deb went to the door and looked through the peep hole. Randy and some man in a business suit. Both smiling.

"What do you want, Randy? And who is that with you?"

"This is Mr. Sandler, Deb," answered Randy. "He's a big Hollywood producer. Would you please let us in? We would like to talk to you."

Debbie stood silent, trying to process the situation. "I know about your cancer, Deb," said Randy. "Mr. Sandler tracked me down from the paperwork you filled out to be on the show. He told me what happened. You have nothing to be ashamed of. We know there's nothing we can do or say to change what you are facing. But please, give us a chance to change how you face it."

Tears flowed down Deb's cheeks. Her heart was broken, but her will was stubborn. "Randy," she answered. "You and your family have been so good to me. But this is something I have to deal with alone."

"I apologize for interrupting, Mrs. T," said Mr. Sandler. "If you wanted to deal with it alone, why couldn't you stop yourself from telling a theater full of strangers? I don't think 'alone' is working for you. We'd like to help if you would be kind enough to let us in so we can talk."

"You came all this way to talk to me?" Deb couldn't imagine such a thing.

"I did," answered Mr. Sandler.

A brief silence followed. With trembling hands, Deb unlocked her apartment door, opened it, and buried her face in Randy's embrace. The three of them sat in Debbie's apartment and talked briefly about her cancer, treatment options, and grim prognosis. Few conversations fill a room with as much heaviness and sadness as this one did.

But the heaviness and sadness didn't last long. Through Mr. Sandler's travel connections and sponsors, as well as sizeable donations from businesses and banks in Deb's small Louisiana community, Deb was going to Hawaii for four weeks! All expenses were paid. Reservations and flights were already booked. Randy handed her an envelope with all her ticket and hotel information and enough spending money for a family of twelve, and said, "I hope your toothbrush is still in your suitcase. You have a plane to catch tomorrow evening."

Did you catch her name? Deb T. Put them together. Debt. We all face Debbie's dilemma. We live in bodies cursed by sin and sentenced to death. The hope of our soul is to gain an envelope of grace that grants us a ticket to Heaven.

We can't earn it. Our debt is higher than our ability to pay. But there is One to whom our value is higher than our debt.

God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the cruel price and purchase our fare to Heaven. Jesus came all this way for YOU!

Debbie didn't go to Hawaii until she reached her hand out and accepted the envelope from Randy. Any gift involves a willing giver and a willing receiver. God has willingly given you the gift of salvation. Jesus willingly gave His blood to pay for your sin's penalty. Have you willingly, personally received that gift?

You can. Here's how: Admit to God that you have sinned against Him. No excuses. No comparisons to anyone else. Just acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of His gift of salvation. Then, ask God to forgive your sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Then, by an act of your will, heart, mind, and soul --- turn away from sin and turn toward the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Invite the resurrected Christ to enter and change your life forever.

Have you? If so...believe. Stand on your soul's liberty through the promises of God's Word, the Bible, that you are forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. You invited Him into your life by faith. Now, live by that same faith.

If you just prayed to receive God's gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I would like to know about it so that I can pray with and for you, and help you take your next steps as a born-again child of God. Please email me and let me know of your decision. I look forward to hearing from you.

Perry Crisp