Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ya Reckon?

Bobby crouched behind a thicket of bushes in the southeast Texas woods, waiting for his target to appear. He heard the crunching of leaves and twigs to his south and waited to see if it was an animal or his enemy approaching. Armadillos make a great racket in the woods, but not nearly as much as an eight-year-old boy.

This was the sound of an eight-year-old boy. Bobby lifted his rifle -- a wooden stick to an adult observer -- but a sniper's rifle to a boy's imagination. Within seconds, a skinny, blonde-haired eight-year-old boy wearing only cut-off jeans came into Bobby's line of fire.

As Bobby squeezed the invisible trigger, he yelled, "Pow, pow, pow, pow!" (Imaginary rifles require vocal sound effects).

Bobby's enemy ducked behind a tree, apparently unharmed.

"I shot you! You're dead!" shouted Bobby.

"Nu- uh! You missed! I dodged your bullets before they could get here!" I shouted back. (Yes, I was the noisy eight-year-old playing army in the woods between Bobby's house and mine. And yes, I've had an overactive imagination all my life...but I really was fast, so he DID miss).

The argument continued. He claimed victory. I claimed stealth. He said I was dead. I said I was alive. The war within the war was never settled.

So it is with the soul and flesh of the believer. The soul tells the flesh to die. Sometimes the flesh dies, but dies slowly; like a black-hatted cowboy in an old western movie who's just been shot. Sometimes the defeated flesh should just go ahead and die, but won't; like a white-hatted cowboy in the same movie who's been shot four times center mass and calls it a flesh wound. But most of the time, the flesh dies like J. R. Ewing: Dead for a season, but makes a comeback.

The Bible tells the believer to die to his old sinful nature. A new nature is in town. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).

"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:9-10, NKJV).

Good stuff. What does it mean? Perhaps an imaginative translation will help: "So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life" (Romans 8:9-10, The Message).

Earlier, Paul wrote, "Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:11, NKJV).

If ever a truth were a challenge, this is it. How do I "reckon" myself to be dead? The principle is solid. The fact is, from heaven's perspective, what Jesus did on the cross buried sin's power to destroy us. But we need to transition from principle to practice. How?

First of all, it may surprise you to know that this kind of thinking is psychologically sound. What we think usually translates into conduct. The thought gives birth to the act. But it isn't mechanical. It can't be ritual. There's no going through the motions or chanting a magical set of words. You have to truly desire to be free from sin and alive to the desires and wishes of God for your life.

Being dead to sin and alive to Christ must become the constant conviction of your heart and mind. Everything you think, do, and say must sift through the filter of this truth. You are no longer what you used to be.

"Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God" (Romans 6:11, The Message).

Let's go literal for a minute. As a pastor, I've stood beside the casket of many a brother and sister in Christ. I've seen the families of the deceased lean over caskets and whisper words of affection and faith. Nothing ever said, no amount of dripping tears ever shed, have altered the reaction of the deceased. It isn't that the deceased is deaf, blind, or uncaring. He's dead. Conscious elsewhere? Absolutely. The soul lives on. Conscious of earthly noise? Nada. A twenty-one gun salute in a cemetery disturbs none of its occupants.

Oh, that we could respond to temptation's noise the same way!

Paul's words in Romans 6 are strengthened by Paul's words in Colossians 3: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For YOU DIED and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (3:1-3).

A Christian is camouflaged in Christ. Time means nothing in heaven. So when God sees the Christian, He sees the result of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. From heaven's view, I died when Christ died. His victorious resurrection was mine, too.

I Reckon So,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It Pains Me to Say This...

"There shall be no more pain" (Revelation 21:4). I have no fondness for pain. Not a single happy painful memory. Sure, good things have often risen out of pain. But neither the pain itself nor the memory of it bring a smile.

Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. The same is true of pain. Pain is always at hand. If not our own, then someone we know. Can you think of someone you know right now who is suffering? I can.

A grieving family a few miles north of me struggles with a pain I cannot imagine -- the drowning death of their three-year-old son.

A dear couple in our church family brought a sack of fresh vegetables from their garden to give to their daughter yesterday...only to be met at the door by the son-in-law saying, "When I tried to wake her up this morning, she was dead."

Parents burying their children flies high off the pain chart.

We know where pain originated. Genesis. The book of beginnings tells us. Adam, Eve, and the serpent had the first committee meeting in human history and decided one of God's rules was suspect. They decided God didn't have their best interests at heart, so they deliberately dined on a forbidden fruit.

God punished each of them with pain. The serpent's mode of transportation went from whatever it was to belly-crawling. If you don't think that's painful, try it. Along with the belly-crawling, the serpent's sin earned him dust-eating and head-crushing.

The woman's punishment was two-fold: Greatly multiplied sorrow and pain when having children, and having to submit to the authority of the dumber of the two genders. Why childbirth? Probably for more significant reasons than I, the dumber of the genders, will ever know. But childbirth had not yet occurred in human history. Chapter 4 of Genesis hadn't been written yet. So, childbirth, the next event in Adam and Eve's lives, was going to be more unbearable (pat yourself on the back if you recognized the pun) than originally planned.

The man obviously took one for the team when the punishment was handed out, though. One could argue that the woman's punishment would be enough for both genders due to the fact that the woman's punishment would naturally be transferred onto the man. Thus, the phrase, "If momma ain't happy, nobody's happy" was born.

Not only that, a man standing next to a woman during the birthing process, FEELS her pain if he is dumb enough to be within reach of her fingernails or teeth. We usually are. One bite has led to a billion more. The woman's second punishment lands in the man's lap as well. Things like heavy sighing, rolling of the eyes, tapping of the foot, hands on the hips, etc., have all evolved from this punishment.

But wait...there's more! For the man. Man had to go out and work the uncooperative fields. The woman and kids needed food. Food came from the ground. But the ground was as cooperative as the clamped jaws of a baby refusing a spoonful of medicine. Thorns, thistles and sweat awaited the man every day until he dropped dead.


Isn't it interesting that the Bible introduces us to pain's birth in the first book and then points to pain's death in the last book? "There shall be no more pain."

What happened between Genesis and Revelation that led to the promise of a future in heaven without pain? The answer is not a what, but a who...


Jesus happened.

Genesis even predicted Jesus would happen. When God was doling out the serpent's punishment, He said, "I will put enmity between you (serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He (Jesus) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15, parenthesis mine).

Seems to me the winner of that battle is the one with the bruised heel. My, what a bruise it was. Are you with me? Between the birth of pain in Genesis to the death of pain in Revelation, Jesus was born.

Jesus was born.

The cure came via the curse.

Jesus came to pay the price for the sin of humanity. He gathered up all the rotten apple cores that have ever fallen from the sin-dripping lips of mankind, toted them to the cross, and paid for them with His life. Through pain.

More pain than any human has ever known. Through His own excruciating pain, He paid sin's penalty with His pure life's blood. The pain was meant for us, yet He stepped between it and us and took it upon Himself.

We still feel pain. Though the penalty has been paid, though forgiveness has been settled, we still live with pain...for now. But there is coming a day when there will be no more pain.

That's something worth knowing. And worth sharing.

Advil until then...
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Man Four All Seasons

A man had four sons. He wanted them to learn not to judge things -- or people -- too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, one at a time, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away. Each son was to view the same tree.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in the summer, and the youngest son in the fall. When they had all completed their individual journeys to the pear tree, the father called his sons together to hear a description of what each one had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son quickly disagreed, "No! It was covered with green buds and full of promise." The third son corrected the second as he described a tree that was laden with blossoms, sweet-smelling, and beautiful. "It was the most graceful thing I have ever seen," he said. The last son disagreed with all of them. He described the tree as ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The father explained to his sons that they were all correct because they had each seen but ONLY one season in the tree's life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season. "The essence of who you are -- and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from your life -- can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are fulfilled."

If you give up when it's winter, you'll miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, and the fulfillment of your fall. Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest. Don't judge your life by one difficult season. Persevere through the difficult patches. Better times are sure to come in time.*

What season of life are you in? There are more than four seasons of the soul. How would you describe this season of your life? Productive, blossoming, barren, dry... There are so many options. I can assure you, there is no way to avoid occasional harsh winters. But there is a way to enhance, lengthen, and strengthen the feeling of spring in the roots of your soul.

"His delight is in the law of the Lord (the Bible), and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (Psalm 1:2-3).

Allow your soul to drink from the Fountain of Life that is the Word of God and feast on the Bread of Life who is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

I've never stayed at the Four Seasons, but I've lived a few of them,

*Adapted from "Seasons of Life." Author unknown.