Thursday, December 15, 2011

Resting on His Easel

I’m not smart enough to understand or explain all the things that happen in life. Some of life’s details puzzle me because my view is limited. While I don’t understand all the details, I believe I have a solid grasp on the big things - the really important stuff. I believe there is a God. But more than that, I believe He is a personal God who created us with a purpose and part of that purpose is to have a relationship with Him through love and faith. I also believe that a personal, loving God who creates with purpose and a desire to know His creation would send a message loud and clear to those He loves.

He did.

Short version? God has revealed the big things to us through His Son, Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible.

The things that matter – the big things - are all covered in the life and message of Jesus and the Bible. Things like life, death, faith, hope, peace, forgiveness, grace, love, commitment, and eternity are all in the book. Above and behind all those things that matter is God – the Architect, the Artist, the Engineer – whatever metaphor works for you.

Today, let's think of God as the Artist. The world is His canvas. His brush moves with purpose. Included within that canvas is the heart and life of every one of God’s children. You are there. So am I. Somewhere on that enormous canvas, you'll find my portrait as only God can paint it. What you see in the God-painting of me depends on where you stand. If you narrow your focus into my life and see only a few details, you miss the big picture. But you not only miss the big picture of my life, you miss the bigger picture of God’s purpose.

Some of you have known me all my life. Others knew me in my childhood years. Many of you have known me just a few years or months. If you only see a few years or months of me, you stand too close to the canvas. If you focus only on what you’ve seen, you miss the greater understanding. It all depends upon what part of my life you have seen. You may have been in God's art studio while He was splashing my life with bright and brilliant colors. Or, you may have witnessed brush strokes of darker colors. Or both. Some of you have witnessed the good. Others, the bad. And those who have witnessed the ugly and remained friends? God bless you. God's paintbrush has dabbed from all corners of His palette while painting me.

You too?

If you talked to others who were in God's art studio of my life at a different time than you, it would be like zooming out from the canvas a bit. You would see with greater clarity. More importantly, the larger picture would come into view. The most important brush strokes on the canvas of my life occurred when I was a teenager. Against the backdrop of dark colors, I opened the canvas of my heart freely to God and surrendered my life to Him. I asked God to forgive me of my dark colors. I invited God to paint a cross across my heart and autograph the name JESUS into my soul. God dipped His brush into a blood-colored cup and swept it across my life. I went from a cheap "paint by numbers" future to a masterpiece in that moment.

I can’t explain some of the brush strokes. Some of the darker colors. Some are there because of my own selfishness and foolishness. Others are there mysteriously. If they have a purpose, I'm unable to figure them out.

But I don’t have to...because I trust the Artist.

Even when I know there’s a bigger picture that I haven’t seen and things I may never understand, I choose to trust and believe that He has a purpose. And I've never tried to make Him answerable to me. He's the Artist. I'm just the canvas.

Step back even further from the canvas of my life and you’ll see that God didn’t paint me separate from the rest of the painting. No. Some of the paint from my life bleeds into what God has painted and is painting into yours, and vice-versa. Influence lingers. Integrity stands in bold colors.

Our colors touch.

Like I said, my view is limited. None of us can explain all of the brush strokes God has painted into our lives. But there’s One whose view isn’t limited. God knows what He's doing. Even when those final brush strokes are made - just before our portion of the canvas is finished - there are liable to be many dark, undiscernible splashes where God's hand pushes hard on the brush. Sickness. Accidents. Loss. Failing health. Losing the struggle to breath. Where we might see tragedy, God sees majesty. In fact, the Bible says so. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

I have a picture in my mind when one of God's dear children dies. It’s a picture of God setting the brush down, stepping back, looking at that portion of the canvas dedicated to the earthly life of that precious loved one, and smiling a smile of satisfaction that says, “Well done, Child. You are a good and faithful servant.”

Precious in the sight of God…

I’m not an artist nor the son of one and you may not be either, but we are a canvas. And there is an Artist. Brush in hand. Purpose in mind. Grace, love, and beauty in heart. Would you surrender the canvas of your heart to Him and trust Him? It makes all the difference in the world.

Resting on His Easel,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fuzz Buster

God. Truth. Choice. Consequence. What do we do when words and concepts become fuzzy to us? We need to do some soul-searching. We need honest, painful, gut-check, reality checking.

Why? Because this stuff matters and matters forever. If God is who the Bible says He is and not just whatever you think He is, then this isn't a game. It's real. The real question when words and concepts become fuzzy to us is this: Are the words and concepts fuzzy in and of themselves or is it my vision that has become impaired?

The Bible is quite unfuzzy about God and truth. God doesn't change. Period. Do not try to adjust Him when He appears to gets fuzzy or when others try to convince you He's fuzzy. Genesis 3 tells us who is behind all attempts to make God and His word seem fuzzy. If God appears fuzzy to you, you're wearing Serpent glasses.

What about truth? Truth is truth. It doesn't change, either. Even when your society, your culture, your favorite talk show host, and your most esteemed and highest educated tongue-waggers tell you that truth is relative, it doesn't change the truth about truth. There is right and wrong. Period. The same God who isn't fuzzy has given us His unfuzzy and unfuzziable truth. Man can't tell God who God is. God tells man who God is.

Nor can man tell God what God should accept from man. Cain tried that. God wanted an animal sacrifice. Cain showed up with a vegetable tray as if to tell God, "I think this is better." Cain was dead wrong.

That leaves us with a choice - the third one in the list above. If God isn't fuzzy and God's truth isn't fuzzy, then how fuzzy are our choices? Not very. We have a choice to believe Him, His Word, His ways, and His promises (promises of what will happen to those who obey His truth and those who do not), or we can choose to disobey. There's no "Choice Purgatory" where we can bargain for a lesser degree of obedience or punishment. There isn't a court of appeals at the corner of heaven and hell.

We either choose to take God at His word and obey or we choose to disobey. After we make our choice to obey or disobey, we are then introduced to the consequences that tag along behind each choice. The consequences can be numerous. One consequence is that every sin I commit and refuse to repent of leads me to commit an even worse sin which leads to an even worse sin, and the tilt continually only leads me further from God and deeper into misery, emptiness, and loneliness.

Cain's anger led to the premeditated homicide of his brother and a curse upon him that was more than he could bear.

There are other consequences, as well. My sin hurts more than me. It hurts others, especially those close to me. As my selfishness rises, my view of their worth diminishes and the ego I feed becomes a beast who devours those who truly care about me.

Some consequences cannot be altered. If I stole a car, was arrested, and in jail asked God to forgive me, God would forgive. Would that cause the deputy to unlock the doors or the judge to dismiss the case? Not likely.


(Aren't you glad there's a "but"?)

But God is a God of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. There is always a turning point with God. God doesn't condone what we do nor give us permission to continue what He says we should not do, but He does forgive us when we stop doing things our way and start doing them His way.

We ask. He forgives.
We pivot. He guides.
We stretch out our hand toward His to find His waiting on ours.

Cain found that God was merciful even to repentant murderers. I never killed my brother, though my thoughts on the subject came dangerously close a time or two. But I've made messes of my own. And I've found that God is merciful when I repent of my messes, too.

God. Truth. Choice. Consequence. It all starts with how accurate your vision of God is. There's a very accurate eye exam that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation. Take it. If you see a cross with tearful clarity, you pass.

The Eyes Have It,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Dad's Broken Heart in the Father's Blessed Hands

Six months ago, a fifteen-year-old FFA student named Skylar went to her home in heaven after an accident. She was in a suburban with other students and a school teacher heading to an FFA event when the accident occurred.

Last night, her dad, David, spoke to a house full of men about the journey of his family's loss. To say that it was touching is an enormous understatement. Yes, every man in the room was touched to see the grace of God at work in the life of a man faced with such grief and heartache. But more than that, we were challenged to live for God like never before.

David spoke from the raw, yet deep experiences of his six-month journey and came to some very sobering decisions. He said that when you go through something like what he and his family are going through, you have two options: "fall back on God or push God away." I am so thankful to have witnessed what happens in a man's life when he decides to fall wholeheartedly back on God. Everything changes. Especially your focus and your purpose.

David goes to bed at night and asks two questions: 1) What did I do for God today, and 2) what did God do for me today? He said the second one is always easier to list than the first. God always does more for us than we do for Him, but why don't we do more for Him than we do?

I didn't know Skylar until last night. I can honestly say I know her now because I've seen her through her daddy's heart. Her relatively short time on this earth was well-lived for her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of the way she lived her life for Christ, others have come to accept Him as their personal Savior, including a young girl whose route to school every day goes by the scene of the accident where Skylar died. That young girl and her family learned about Skylar and the way she lived her life for Christ, and she wanted to know Skylar's Savior personally.

I am challenged today by a dad whose love for God is helping him walk through the darkest nights of his life with a light that helps others find, believe in, and cling to our heavenly Father. The heart of that dad reminds me of the heart of that Father. God, our heavenly Father, gave His only Son willingly to die on the cross as an eternal payment for your sins and mine. That's an awesome Father, an amazing gift, and an incredible love!

Wherever you are right now -- whatever you're going through -- would you stop for a minute and make a decision to fall wholeheartedly into the arms of God? Pushing Him away only leads to darker darkness, lonelier loneliness, and emptier emptiness.

Darkness needs light. Loneliness needs presence. Emptiness needs substance. God gives all three generously to those who seek Him.

What can I do for You today, Lord?
Perry Crisp

Monday, June 27, 2011

War Against Words

"This is war!" Three words shouted by a madman just before he opened fire on the people gathered at First Baptist Church, Daingerfield, Texas in the summer of 1980. His "war" came without warning and was unleashed with tremendous fury on the innocent.

It was a war no one knew existed until it erupted that June morning. It was a war I will never forget. It has left permanent visual images on my mind. Since that day, there have been similar one-man acts of war that have ambushed innocent people on college campuses, churches, schools, and other public places.

There are wars we know are wars, and there are wars we remain unaware of until we're under attack. There are visible, strategic, correspondents-on-the-ground wars and invisible, surprise, no-one-knew-this-was-coming wars. Pearl Harbor and Nine Eleven rank high on our nation's memory of surprise attacks.

There are at least two ways to be invisible. One is to fly under the radar so that no one sees you. The other is to be so cleverly disguised that no one sees you even when you're right out in the open. There is an invisible war taking place right now. It is not flying under the radar. It is out in the open. Yet, few see it.

Even though it is a war on all fronts, it continues to go unnoticed. The reason it continues to go unnoticed is because its strategy is one of slow erosion. The outer defenses have been systematically removed with intellectual sniper fire. Yet, it is not a war against man, though man is a casualty. It's a war against paper. Paper? Paper. Documents. Parchments. Scrolls. It is a war against the authoritative documents once respected and obeyed in this land.

The strength of this nation is directly linked to the principles, values, and Divine guidance found in written form. The primary source of the U. S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, our nation's authoritative documents, is the Bible. Those who question that fact wear a darker blindfold than Lady Liberty. Not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of defiance against the notion of an involved God in the affairs of man.

The content of our conduct contained in those parchments of liberty and law are reflective of that which is contained in God's Word. State Constitutions are an even greater reflection of a Biblical foundation. Yet, we now live in a day when all the authoritative documents of our land, especially the Bible, are under fire.

Liberties are being squeezed into handcuffs. Laws of God-ordained human conduct and decency are being court marshalled. Man has assumed an editing role over what God has written and drawn red ink X's over sections that do not meet with their approval or desired lifestyle urges.

When men elevate themselves above their authoritative documents, there is anarchy. When men tell God who He can and cannot be and what He can and cannot do or say, the insane have truly taken over the sanitarium.

We have mislabeled arrogance and called it wisdom. We have substituted pride with what we were told was enlightenment. We have forced nature to accept what is unnatural. We have become so subnormal that the normal is now seen as abnormal. We celebrate homosexuality and mock celibacy. We fight vociferously to save whales in icy waters and send scalpels into hearts beating with human life inside human wombs. We have decided humans are evolved monkeys and then wondered why our children act more like monkeys than humans.

This is a war that is fully engaged and rapidly gaining strength. We need to be students of history. When Israel behaved similarly, turned her back on God's Word and God's ways, allowed man-made gods equal status to the God who made man, the God who made man removed His hedge of protection and allowed peoples of distant lands and purveyors of pagan religions to cart them off as conquered enemies.

To engage this battle for the soul of this nation, let us return to the primary document of true faith which includes the following directive: "If My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The hope of healing for this nation is real. You have just read the prescription needed to bring healing. Will we fall to our knees...or be brought to them?

On the Battlefield of Prayer,
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Homeless No More

Last Saturday, Max Melitzer's life and world changed. Max started out the day the same way he had for at least four years - pushing a shopping cart that contained his few possessions, roaming the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah, eating at rescue missions, and sleeping outside.

Max had no home and no hope...until Saturday. As Max pushed his shopping cart through Pioneer Park, a man approached him and asked if they could sit and talk. Max sat down on a park bench and received the news that his brother who had died of cancer last year left him a significant amount of money in his will. Max knew that his brother had died, but had no idea that he had been included in his brother's will.

David Lundberg, the private detective hired by the Melitzer family to find Max, told the Associated Press, "He'll no longer be living on the street or in abandoned storage sheds. He'll be able to have a normal life, and be able to have a home, provide for himself, and purchase clothing, food and health care."

Last Saturday, Max sat down a poor man and stood up a rich man. He had done nothing to improve the status of his life. Nor was it blind luck that reversed his course. Max's life changed because of a generous gift from someone who loved him more than he realized.

Max knew that his brother had died. But he didn't know that his brother's death turned the tumblers that opened a vault that would change his destiny.

You probably have some level of knowledge regarding the person named Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ. The Messiah. It is also quite likely that you have been informed that Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years ago.

But did you know...

•Jesus loves you more than you realize?

•Jesus was heaven's generous gift to you that opened an eternal inheritance you could never earn or repay?

•Jesus' death turned the tumblers that opened heaven's vault that could change your forever destiny if you will accept Him by faith?

Max received an inheritance from someone who loved him. An inheritance that came only after death. Max has a choice. He can either accept or refuse the gift. But how could he turn away from that sacrificial gift of love without rejecting the giver? I'm sure that Max feels unworthy and humbled by the gift. But I'm also sure that he loves his brother now more than ever because he knows how much his brother truly loved him.

Your response to Jesus is the same. You have the same options Max has, yet with eternal implications and consequences. I yearn to testify that I have accepted the sacrificial gift from Jesus, though no one is less worthy of it or more humbled by it.

Jesus loves me, this I know - for the cross tells me so.
Perry Crisp

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You've Got Sole!

Conception. Birth. Infancy. Childhood. Adolescence. Adulthood. Death. Seven stages of your life and mine. Most of us have used up the first five and transitioned into the sixth. Unlike the others, there's not a chronological mark that tells us when we're going to the next.

Some of you are just getting used to the sixth. Like breaking in a new pair of boots, you are learning who you are as an adult. Others of us have thoroughly broken into the sixth and settled into a well-defined pattern of behavior and thinking. Life at this point is about comfort. Our boots may not have the shine they used to, but they're comfortable. Still others of us are not just broken in, we're breaking through! The boots are getting so worn, they're falling apart. We're not sure how much longer they will last. Soon enough, there won't be anything left but the --- sole.

Look at those seven words at the top of the page again. Is there anything missing? Of course there is. Even if the whole world is a stage, life is more than stages. While there's so much more to life than those seven words, there's one word missing that is the most important of all: Purpose.

Purpose answers the question, "Why?" Why life? Why the stages? Why did I start as a twinkle in my parent's eyes and end up as a tearful memory in the eyes of my children?

What's the point of going through those seven stages? Surely you've thought about this. Please tell me you've wrestled internally with this and not just accepted what others have told you.

What is your purpose? What is mine? To be another human on the assembly line of human history? Here I come. There I go. That was fun. Really?

Whatever your honest answer is to the purpose question will naturally and logically lead you to the existence of a personal Creator. If you say, "My purpose is to love...or make a difference in this world...or help others...or observe and appreciate life and beauty..." ---- you've led yourself naturally to see that you are expressing a reflection of the nature of your Creator.

Since there is a Creator, who is He and what is His purpose in creating me and you?

Come on. Keep going. Don't stop. Even if it goes against everything this world has taught you, you owe it to yourself to wrestle with the purpose question and follow it's trail until it leads to the pot of gold known as "truth."

Even if you've been taught there is no such thing as tangible truth, don't let other people put stop signs on a trail when your heart says there is more beyond. Your boots are wearing thin. You've got a sole to think about.

You and I both know people who went on to stage seven early in the sixth stage while the boots were still new. Others have skipped some of the other stages and gone to the seventh. There are no "Seventh Stage Two Miles Ahead" exit signs.

It's a dangerous thing to get comfortable short of the truth. Keep going, please. And be honest.

The sole may die, but...

A Soul Lives Forever.
Perry Crisp

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lynn, May I?

Did you ever play “Mother, may I” as a child? I remember playing this game a few times. Each time, it was with my big sister, Lynn – the mother of all “Mother, may I” contestants. She was the oldest and the only female among us three children, so she felt it fitting that she should always be the first mother in the game of "Mother, may I."

My brother, Mark, and I never ever made it to the finish line to dethrone Lynn as top mama. Occasionally, she would feel generous and say, “Yes, you may.” Unless you asked for giant steps. As long as Lynn was big mama, it was baby steps or nothing. By far, her favorite answer was, “No, you may not!”

She was cute and always smiled when she said it, but there was something sinister about the whole thing. Thankfully, the cute part of Lynn has stayed with her and the sinister part has eroded over the years…I think! (I guess we’ll never know until or unless we have a “Mother, may I” rematch!)

Other than recalling the goofy eyeglass frames of the 60's that Lynn and Mark both wore back then, I don’t have fond memories of “Mother, may I.” But there is another game I absolutely LOVE to play – “Father, may I?” Actually, it’s not a game at all. It’s a way of life for the believer. “Father, may I” is the greatest conduit to the largest supply of resources in this world or any other.

Our Father has unlimited resources to match His unlimited love and grace. His only begotten Son, Jesus, taught us all about “Father, may I.”

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, NKJV).

I’ll get us started and let’s all make it a daily part of our lives to say, “Father, may I?”

“Father, may I see Your mighty hand of revival sweep across this continent again?”

“Father, may I have the privilege of sharing your love and grace-message to one more person?”

“Father, may I sit near You for awhile and tell You I love You over and over again?”

What better month than the month of “May” and what better week than the one which holds the National Day of Prayer (this Thursday) to renew our zeal to ask, “Father, may I?”

Yes, You May.
Perry Crisp

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is It Just Me or is There a Rough Draft in Here?

I am only a co-writer in the story of my life. God is the true Author. He's the Editor-in-Chief. He writes the events, characters, the timing of things, and the circumstances of my daily environment. He schedules appointments and disappointments. I can only write in response to what He writes. My feelings. My faith. My lack of either. He sets the stage. He writes in advance. He knows what's in chapter 24 while I'm still in chapter 12. I walk onto today's stage without script or preparation. My life-writing is impromptu. My responses reveal who I truly am. But I know I'm not writing alone. He has a plan and His plan is good. So, I take what He writes and hope that I gain wisdom, but so often I lose character. I do respond with wisdom...sometimes (occasionally maybe? Okay, so it's more like occasionally-bordering-on-rarely). Most of the time I react emotionally and regret what I write with my words or my actions. Yet even then, God gives me opportunity to rewrite. What feels like permanent red ink boiling out of me in one instant is touched by His eraser of forgiveness the next. He allows for rough drafts. His Spirit lends gentle correction to my outbursts. He calms my trembling hand. He soothes my broken heart. I'm given a second chance to right what's wrong with what I've written. An example from a past manuscript of my life is in order. Please understand -- I'm not proud of some of the things I've written into my life. I usually don't let people see the rough drafts. But I feel compelled to revisit an important chapter. Perhaps you have a chapter comparable to mine. This particular chapter began May 14, 1993. It was a day that I had scheduled for celebration, but it took an unpredictable bounce into a night filled with tears. I was an inexperienced life-writer. I wrote as if life bounced like a basketball. The bounce of a basketball is predictable. You learn the feel of it and know where it's going to be when it bounces back up. Your fingertips can anticipate a basketball so well that your eyes never have to look down. The bounce is in the script. Everything goes according to script. Like I said...I was inexperienced. I looked forward to May 14, 1993. I worked hard for years to get to May 14, 1993. When it finally came, the joy, exhilaration, and adrenalin I felt holding that piece of paper that certified a 92-hour Master's degree is hard to describe. My family and church family were in the audience standing and applauding when my name was called...just like I had written into the script. We celebrated with a graduation party, gifts, and cake. In the script. All was right with the world. The basketball of life was bouncing according to my anticipated desires. Somewhere between the last bite of cake and bedtime, the basketball turned into a football. My life took a very unpredictable bounce. I learned that night that the only thing predictable about life is that it is predictably unpredictable. Life bounces like a football. Ever tried dribbling a football? Try it. You'll understand. Late that night, after the kids were in bed, my mom and dad said they had something to tell us. Mom was in a rocking chair. She was rocking that chair hard. She licked her lips a couple of times as she struggled for words. Something inside me knew I wasn't prepared for what she was about to say. I knew everything I had written had been said. I didn't write what was about to be said. Her cancer was back. This time, it was bone cancer. This time, short of God's powerful, yet fully capable intervention, it would take her life. Suddenly, all that was right with the world vanished into the shadows. My hand hung in the air waiting for the basketball to bounce back up. It never did. A year later, Mom finished her fight, completed her race, and received her crown. I pretended I was still dribbling a basketball. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know how to grieve. I should have put the pen down and stopped writing. It wasn't a fairy tale. It was real. It hurt. Unresolved hurt leads to anger. I tried to resolve it with my resolve. Just keep dribbling. Just keep dribbling. Maybe no one will notice there's no ball there. Maybe if I just kept dribbling, the ball would find its way back. It didn't. Anger has many expressions. Internally, I began to write in invisible ink. Under the surface. A new me. An ugly me. Not for publication. The roughest of rough drafts. Subconsciously, I was angry at the Author. Deep inside me, I fired the Editor-in-Chief and took over all the publication duties of my life. The anger got ugly. Jesus once said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." He's right. But in that chapter of my life, you could add one word to the end of His sentence and it would still be true: "Apart from Me, you can do nothing GOOD." I did nothing good. I tried. I took tools too big for my hands into my hands and tried to build my own kingdom. How silly. I'm not an ancient Chinese, but I came up with a proverb: "He who cannot build bird house has no business building a kingdom." It didn't stand. It fell. So did I. Through a process outlined below, I quit playing editor-in-chief of my life and humbly welcomed the authentic Editor-in-Chief back into His rightful place in my life. Life still bounces like a football. I can't predict it. But wow --- you ought to see God dribble a football! It's no problem for Him. How to Rewrite Life - A Process Learned the Hard Way by Perry Crisp: 1. Be Ready. It will happen to you. The predictability of the unpredictable in your life is my prediction. Go ahead and accept it. Count on it. Be ready for anything. Make sure you have more than a fair-weather faith while the weather is still fair. 2. Be Confident: (a) in the power of prayer (Do you realize that Jesus prayed? Jesus would not have prayed if prayer were powerless), and (b) in the presence of friends. Friends may not always understand. In fact, they may even seem clumsy, insensitive, and unthinking at times. But the truth is, they care -- else they wouldn't be there. 3. Be Real. Life isn't a fairy tale. It doesn't go according to our script. While you grapple with accepting that, also give yourself permission to be real with God about your feelings, your hurt, your loss, and your anger. He's a big God. He can handle it. 4. Be Right. With God. The temptation when life takes an unpredictable, unfair, and painful bounce is to let go of God and give up on your faith. I've been there. That path only leads to a dead end of misery. Resist bitterness. You must decide: Do I want to be bitter or get better? It's an either/or choice. Accept what can't be changed. Focus on what's left, not what's lost. Hang on. Cling tighter. Cry louder. Lean harder. Surrender more. His anchor holds through the fiercest storm. 5. Be Renewed. You can't force or fake this part. It's a work of God's grace. Renewal comes through surrender. "God, take what's left. Take what I've made a mess of. It's all in Your hands. I'm in Your hands. I thought I had control. That was just an illusion. I have no control. You have it should be. Renew Your Spirit in me." 6. Bless Others. I know it sounds crazy. But God has wired the universe so that we get better by reaching out to meet the needs of others in spite of our own neediness. Do you need to feel loved? Love someone. Do you need hope? Extend hope to another. Do you need a second chance? Give someone else a second chance. Trust me. It works. "Father, here is a crumpled, worn, tear-stained rough draft. I submit it to You in hopes that You will use it today to speak to my fellow struggling life-writers." Amen... Perry Crisp

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Tearful Cast

Two of us will remember that Spring day in 1970 for the rest of our lives...but for very different reasons. It was my first fishing tournament and my first fishing trophy. I was eight years old and yes - I still have the trophy. Fifteen or twenty of us boys from our church group were camping and fishing on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. None of our adult sponsors had a boat, so we all had to fish the RA (Royal Ambassador) Invitational Bass tournament from the bank.

My Zebco 33 reel was on a brand new Ugly Stick rod and I was chunking a black and chartreuse H&H spinner bait. The night before the tournament we all took turns bragging about who was going to catch the most fish or the biggest fish. I don't know about the other guys, but I was determined to make my words come true. When the time came to start the tournament, I was pumped up and ready to go. With every cast, I gave it all I had. I pushed the button on the Zebco reel, reared that rod back, and rocket-propelled that H&H as far as it would go.

I had two strategies: 1) Cover more water than anyone else. 2) Throw into the brush and stumps where the other guys were afraid to throw. It paid off. Melvin was my only competition and we were both about even when I saw a fallen tree about twenty yards out. I landed my spinner bait right in front of that fallen tree time after time and came back with nothing. To toss over the tree was a risk even I didn't want to take because it meant I would definitely get hung up and lose my lure. The only way I wouldn't get hung up was if a fish hit the lure before it got to the tree. Even if a fish hit it, the chances of dragging a fish over a fallen tree were very slim.

Then Melvin caught another fish.

Before I knew it, my H&H was flying over that fallen tree. No sooner than it hit the water, a four pound bass wrapped his lips around it. My line was zigging and zagging across the bark of that fallen oak. I gave the line a great big yank and two miracles happened. The fish came clear out of the water, over the tree. That was miracle number one. Miracle number two, he didn't spit the hook out. I still had him. My skinny eight-year-old frame fought that bass like he was a marlin. I landed the fish. But before I could celebrate, I noticed Melvin was fishing again. He was chunking over fallen trees.

I gave my prize catch to one of the sponsors so I could get back to fishing. I figured there might be another fish on the other side of that fallen oak. Some of the boys on that fishing trip had never seen a four pound bass, so they were all gathered behind me admiring the fish I caught. But I was worried about Melvin.

I settled my feet into the muddy bank, pushed the button on the reel, reared back, and tried to chunk that spinner bait to the same spot, but my lure got caught in something behind me. I didn't look back to see what it was. I just kept yanking.

At first, I thought it was a tree limb above me, and if I just yanked hard enough, it would break loose. Then I noticed something. Every time I yanked, Macky yelled. I turned around to see that the hooks of my H&H were caught in the top of Macky's head! He had been behind me admiring my recent catch -- only to become my next one.

I never got another chance to toss on the other side of that oak because the sponsors called an end to the tournament while they dug my hooks out of Macky's head with their pocket knives.

I got a trophy. Macky got stitches. Neither of us will ever forget that day. But for different reasons. It was a moment of pride for me, but pain for him.

There's coming a day the whole world will never forget. A day that will cause some to rejoice and many others to regret. It will be the day to end all days. The day all days end. Then, according to Jesus in Matthew 24-25, there will be a separation. Some will inherit a glorious eternity in the presence of God. Others will begin an eternity of unspeakable sadness and pain.

All will be fair. All will be final. The good news of God's love and His grace-gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ is within your heart's grasp. Trust Him or turn away from Him. It's your choice. But it is the biggest decision you'll ever make with the longest lasting results you'll ever experience. It'll be a day none of us will ever forget.

I pray it won't be for different reasons.

Perry Crisp

Monday, March 7, 2011

Think Again

You Thought...

...You were indestructible.
...You were incorruptible.

...You would never make THAT mistake.
...You would never be in THIS situation.

...Life lasted forever.
...Love lasted forever.

...You had everything figured out.
...You had everyone figured out.

...He/she was your friend.
...She/he/it wouldn't change.

...YOU wouldn't change.


You Didn't Think...

...Yesterday would shape and distort today.
...Tomorrows would decrease and yesterdays would increase.

...The kids would grow up so fast.
...You would grow old so soon.

...Emptiness would be this hard to fill.
...Loneliness could be this deep to fall.

...Truth is absolute.
...God is involved.

...The culture was wrong.
...The Bible was right.

...You needed to change.

"Seek God while He's here to be found, pray to Him while He's close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness. 'I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work,' decrees God." ~ Isaiah 55:7-8 (The Message).

Think Again,

Perry Crisp

Monday, February 21, 2011

Knowin' vs. Guessin'

A quick check of current bass fishing lures at a major retailer lists 937 types. With each type, there are size and color variations on the average of 22 per type. Multiply those together and you need a tackle box that can hold 20,614 items.

What's a fisherman to do? Unless he is on speaking terms with a largemouth bass (and I know a few people who ARE), he is forced to guess. There are, however, different levels of guessing.

Take Homer and his wife, Etta, for example. Being the romantic husband that he is, Homer decided to take Etta fishing on Valentine's Day. Actually, he had planned on taking her to the Dairy Queen but it wasn't his fault the bass began their pre-spawn activity on Valentine's Day!

So the two lovebirds hopped into the john boat and headed to the north end of the lake. Being the generous and loving husband that he is, Homer rigged Etta's pink and purple female-type fishing pole with a Texas-rigged, super killin', hog smashin' craw-worm. He told her to chunk it on out there, let it hit bottom, and then slowly crank it in, giving the rod an occasional pop. Even though Etta never said, "Huh?" - Homer knew the look. Being the patient husband that he is, he chunked it out there for her and demonstrated his prior instructions.

After a long ten minutes of fishing and catching nothing, Etta went to fiddling around in Homer's tackle boxes.

"What are you doing, sugar muffin?" asked Homer.

"I'm looking for something else to fish with. Something with a little bling to it," answered Etta. She looked up at him with her one good eye and grinned that gorgeous, albeit toothless, grin that always melted his heart. He returned the grin with a nod and a half smile, then turned where she couldn't see him smirk.

Homer thought to himself, "Bling? Did she say bling? It's a tackle box, not a jewelry box. She ain't gonna catch nothin. And when I catch me a hawg on this here craw-worm, she'll be sorry she didn't listen to the master!"

Homer prided himself on knowing exactly what the fish were biting. He even bragged to his buddies that God blessed him with a fish's brain and he "knowed what they were thinkin'."

Etta pulled a ten-inch worm out of the bottom of Homer's tackle box and held it up. "Can I try this one?" she asked.

Homer had no idea how such a worm ever made it's way into his tackle box. That worm was a sight! It looked like a mardi gras parade puked all over it. It had every bright-colored, glittery speck you could imagine imbedded into it's black and motor-oil colored body.

Homer spit. Then he spoke. "Apparently, that old worm has set too long on the bottom of my tackle box," he said. "And all the glitters and sparkles from other baits melted into it. That's the ugliest thing I ever saw! The fish ain't gonna hit that thing. In fact, it'll probably scare 'em all away...honey pie."

She batted her eye, squared her jaw, and tried to stand up in the boat so she could put her hands on her hips (a posture Homer knew all too well). "But, but, but, if my four-leaf clover darlin' wants to fish with that," Homer corrected himself. "Then, by golly, she's gonna fish with it."

Etta sat back down and grinned like a giddy school girl. Homer took the bling mardi gras puke worm from her hand and put it on her hook. It went against every fiber of his being and he hoped no one could see him. Etta cast the worm about two feet, making an awful splash as that big worm hit the water right next to the boat.

While Homer was shaking his head and whispering his good-byes to all the bass in a two-mile radius, Etta's pole went to bending and Etta went to screaming, "I got one!"

"No way!" Homer shouted before he could stop himself.

"Yes, way!" Etta yelled back. "Stop standin' there gawkin'. Get the net!"

"You sure it ain't a stump or a gar or a trot line?" Homer asked and instantly regretted asking it. Before that sentence got to "trot line," Homer knew the answer. A bass so big it would be a wallhanger in Jimmy Houston's house (pause for a moment of silence at the mention of his name) jumped straight up out of the water, did a hula dance in mid-air with five inches of puke worm hanging out of her mouth, and headed straight back down.

"Hang on, Etta! I'm gettin' the net. Give her some slack or she'll break your line," Homer shouted.

Etta leered at him and said, "I got this! You just get the net."

Homer did the husband hunker that all men are familiar with. The one that says, "Yes ma'am" without the words.

The fish was longer than the mouth of the net, but they managed to get her into the boat. After a dozen high fives, a thousand hoops and hollers, and a couple of pictures with the polaroid, Etta turned to the crowd that had gathered at the bank and held her lunker hawg big momma bass up like Jay Yelas at the Bassmasters (another pause). She could hear the folks whistling and shouting.

When she turned back around, Homer, being the humble husband that he is, was digging in the bottom of his tackle box for a ten-inch black and motor-oil worm with some bling on it.

The lesson of Homer and Etta is three-fold: 1) Take your dog - NEVER your wife - fishing on Valentine's Day. 2) If you DO take her fishing and she catches a bigger fish than you, DON'T go to the Dairy Queen right after that. 3) No matter how good a guesser you are when it comes to fishing -- everyone occasionally guesses wrong, and anyone can occasionally guess right.

Fishing is guesswork. But you can improve your chances of guessing right by learning patterns, studying the seasonal behavior of fish, discovering what is and is not working from other experienced fishermen (and knowing whether they are lying to you or not), and by following the three P's: practice, practice, practice.

However, even a first-time fisherman can crawl into a boat or stand on a bank and be in the right place at the right time with the right bait. The guesswork factor in fishing is what makes it fun.

Unless you're fishing for answers to life's questions.

Life was never meant to be a guessing game. The Creator of life did not create haphazardly. He created with purpose, design, and compassion. He not only planned YOU, He has a plan FOR you. You don't have to guess. You just have to search.

Where do you begin searching? The first place to search for God's plan for your life is in the Bible. It is God's instruction manual for man. In it, you will find truth. Truth is the guide of life that we all need. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6).

The truth of the Bible also tells us that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). That's not a guess. That's a guarantee from the Manufacturer.

A second place to search is in prayer. Prayer is simply opening your heart to God and talking to Him. You can tell Him how you feel. You can ask Him to show you what He wants you to know. You can ask Him anything. He longs to hear from you. A third place to search is in a healthy church. Being around other followers of Christ gives you people just like you to talk to, lean on, and learn from.

This life and the one following is too important to leave it all up to chance. God wants you to know. He hasn't put 20,614 options in front of you. Just one. His Son. I pray you will accept Jesus as, not only the Savior of the world who died for the sins of the world, but as YOUR personal Savior who loves you and died for you.

Googling Really Large Tackle Boxes,
Perry Crisp

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Game of Life Isn't

Life, for a lot of people, really is like Monopoly. People have their preferences. Some like the race car. Others want the thimble. Everyone has a niche. A thing. A game piece molded into a tiny idol. They go around and around trying to win more stuff than their neighbors while also hoping to avoid penalties and prison. When the game is over, they want to be the one who owns the bank and the board.

What then?

It's still a lot like Monopoly. The game ends. The board is folded up and placed in a box. All the houses and hotels slide off the board and into a bag. All the property cards are rubber-banded together and placed in a plastic holder. The winner realizes all that he or she has won is fake. All that paper money and all those property cards mean nothing in the end. You can't take them with you.

The luck of the dice and the legs of skilfull ability can only take a person so far. Then comes the end. And in the end, it will not matter what you've accomplished or accumulated. Your lifeless arms will be folded and your body will be placed in a box. Game over.

Or is it?

Have you ever played a game with someone who changed the rules for his or her own benefit? Penalties that applied to you did not apply to them for some obscure reason. Rewards that advanced them did not advance you.

Funny how people like to shape their own realities with nothing to go on but their own selfishly-shaped perceptions. It is most obvious when you talk to them about "Game Over."

Ask them what happens when you die and you will hear about heaven, nirvana, reincarnation, and a few who believe you just stop existing altogether.

They've created a monopoly world and changed some of the squares. They don't like the idea of hell, so they cut and paste "Free Parking" over it. They don't like some of the truths in the Bible, so they remove those verses from the card pile.

Oh, but they like heaven. So, all four corners of their board lead to heaven.

How would you feel if you were the creator of the game, the writer of the rules, the placer of the squares, and you made your game public only to find everyone else manipulating your monopoly?

Probably the same way Elizabeth Maggie Phillips felt. Lizzie, a Quaker, invented a game board in 1903 and called it "The Landlord's Game." The purpose of Lizzie's game was to teach people how monopolies end up bankrupting the many while giving extraordinary wealth to one person. It was intended to illustrate the negative aspects of greed.

People started playing her game and it had the opposite impact on them. Instead of teaching them to beware of greed, it fed their greed. They liked winning. They enjoyed taking everyone else's property and money. Others took her idea and redeveloped it into Monopoly. Wikipedia calls Monopoly "the domination of a market by a single entity."

Can you imagine how Lizzie felt?

God can.

God made life, created the players, wrote the rules, and placed the truths of eternity squarely into reality. He put the cards in the pile that say, "Do not..." He filled the board with good things and gave clear instructions on how to find them and how to avoid the bad things. And even when bad things were inevitable and the players needed a helping hand, God put His own Son into the game. Jesus is the "Get out of hell free" card of life.

But we keep trying to change His rules. We keep editing what He has written. We keep sticking temporary labels over permanently etched facts.

There is an enormous difference between Lizzie and God that you need to know about. Lizzie was powerless to stop the manipulation of her creation. In fact, she even succombed to it and republished her game to take advantage of everyone's greed and accumulate her own.

God is not powerless. You can try to rewrite the game all you want. You cannot erase what He has written. Cancel hell on your board. But it will still be on God's board. What God calls sin on His board will still be punishable no matter what you've called it on yours.

God loves you. Because He does, He wants you to know the truth. And it doesn't matter if your name is Rich Uncle Pennybags with your little moustache, smoking jacket, walking cane, and top hat --- Only the truth can set you free.

This isn't a game.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What Was I Going to Put Here for a Title?

Reminders. I'm amazed at how many I need. God, in His sovereignty, allowed someone in the past to invent Post-it-Notes because He knew I would be born! I live in a yellow-sticker world.

I drive a pickup truck that has a yellow sticker on the windshield put there graciously by the oil and lube folks who hope it will remind me that my oil needs to be changed. When my truck gets low on gas, an annoying noise dings and a yellow light comes on to remind me to get gas. When my tires need inflating, my dashboard flashes a yellow icon that looks like a flat tire. My truck is filled with electronic Post-it-Notes!

Why do I need to be reminded of so many things? Maybe I'm ADD. I don't know. I've made a few (34) appointments to get tested, but something else always came up and I missed the appointments. I understand why I need to be reminded to do routine tasks. They're minor. It's the important stuff that shouldn't require a hai-karate slap. I shouldn't go fuzzy on the big things.

But I do. We all do.

Many of the most popular phrases of our existence, whether they are on bumper stickers or in our Bibles, are reminders of important stuff.

"Seek first the kingdom of God..." is the key to having our priorities right. It's the motto that should drive our motor. Do we? Do we wake up every morning locked in on what God wants? Or do we need reminding?

"Live, laugh, love..." are words that decorate our homes and color our imaginations to remind us how we ought to redeem every moment we've been given. Do we? Do we truly live, savoring every moment of every day? Or do we frequently coast, occasionally trudge, or set our mental gauges on "Just Get Me Through This Day"? Do we laugh? Really laugh. Unrestricted laughter that makes squeaking or snorting noises. The kind of laughter that doubles us over and barely stops long enough to let us breathe. Do we love? Love isn't words or feelings alone. Love is action. Love loves. Love lets others know we thought enough of them to do something unexpected. We should never need a reminder to love.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and your neighbor as yourself." The Bible is obsessed with this one. From Genesis to maps, we are reminded to love God and each other. God is crazy about love because He's crazy about you. Do we? Do we love Him and each other? If love is action and not words or feelings alone, how much love is God getting from you? From me? How about that neighbor? Is he/she feeling the love? Oh, how oft we need reminding.

"Don't worry. Be happy." Four words. Two statements of two letters each. We know them, sing them, and are familiar with the two dots of eyes, the upward smiling curve in a circle of....YELLOW (another Post-it-Note) that symbolizes the saying. But are we? Are we happy and worry-free? Some of us are medicated with happy pills and still can't find our sweet spot. We are like the camel who said, "I don't care what anybody says, I'm thirsty!" In spite of the "don't-worry-be-happy" montra, we do worry and we aren't always happy. So we need reminding.

These reminders have become familiar to us through repetition. They are necessary for us because we lose focus. We all need occasional reminders more than occasionally.

So, what's the point of all this? I don't know. I got distracted. Let me scroll back up and read. Oh yeah. We need reminders of the important because we are easily distracted by the urgent. I'm not advocating the need for group meetings. Even if we organized an RA group (Reminders Anonymous), I'd forget to show up.

Just consider this a Post-it-Note of the important in your life. I don't know the details of the most important notes of your existence, but I'm sure it involves love. Consider yourself reminded!

Perry Crisp

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Four Big Days

"So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

The Bible speaks often of the number of our days. Even if the Bible didn't tell us, we would still know that our days are numbered. An afternoon walk through a cemetery, reading tombstones, would provide us with the sobering news that a number will be placed on the other side of our dash. We also know that the number of days rarely reaches 36,500.

Let's be gracious and say that you and I live 36,510 days. We both reach and barely pass 100 years. I've already used up nearly half of mine and it really seems to have gone by fast. Life has a heavy foot. The days in the rearview are mostly a blur. Job called them a shadow and said they move faster than a weaver's shuttle. The Psalmist and James describe life as a vapor that appears for a brief time and then disappears.

Depressing? It can be. Especially when you read about Job's life and then check out his philosophy, "We were born yesterday, and know nothing because our days on earth are a shadow" (Job 8:9).

So much for our frequently used line of self-defense, "Do you think I was born yesterday?"

Job's answer? "Yup."

Compared to eternity. Compared to God. We were born yesterday and will die tomorrow when you compare our life to His. No wonder our dash is so small. We aren't even a hiccup on the timeline of human history. On the chart of eternity? No microscope could find us compared to the God who has no beginning, no dash, no expiration date, and no tombstone. A grave tried to hold His Son once, but failed.

Speaking of His Son...

Of the days numbered on the chart of human history, there are three that are significant to the world: The day of Christ's birth, the day of Christ's death, and the day of Christ's resurrection. Those three days changed everything!

You don't have to count very high to "gain a heart of wisdom." Once you realize the significance of those three days, you are on your way to a very important fourth day. Your day of grace. Your spiritual birthday. Mine came in the fifteenth year of my life. A couple of months after my 5,475th day of oxygen, I confessed to God that I was a sinner and invited Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior. God forgave me. Jesus saved me. That day became the center point of the pendulum swing of my life. No matter how many ticks of the clock I have left on this earth, everything changed that day.

My soul was moved out of time's control and into eternity's vault. The promise from God's Word is that I now belong to Him and will spend eternity with Him before the tombstone carver can chisel the date on the other side of the dash.

Three days changed history. The fourth one changes eternity. Today is a great day for your fourth. I pray you will accept God's gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and invite Him into your life today.

Briefly Yours, Eternally His...
Perry Crisp