The Invisible boy on the train track.

An invisible boy traipses along a deserted railroad track. He looks as far down as he can see, wondering what it was like, back in the day, when this track was filled with steel cars and hurried passengers. The smell of railroad ties intertwined with the whir of passing cars along the highway draws him further down the line. He’s surrounded by activity, but on that empty track he feels disconnected from it all. He wonders how far he could walk and how long he could be gone before anyone noticed his absence. He’s afraid to walk too far. He’s afraid his suspicions will be true. He’s afraid he’ll discover he could walk to China and the world would just keep moving like the traffic on the highway. Oblivious. Preoccupied. Not even aware he was gone.  But one day he decides to give it a try. He gets out on the track and walks. Alone. Invisible. Disconnected from the world speeding around him. Tired of being invisible. He just wants someone to see him. So he walks.

He walks for miles, waving at the oblivious passers by, imagining they’re waving back. As he travels along the track he leaves his home far behind, occasionally wondering if any of his siblings are looking for him. Once in awhile he thinks he hears a voice calling him home, but when he turns around to look no one is there. Must have been imagining things. So the invisible boy walks on. He walks on hoping someone will be able to see him. As he gets a little older and wiser he decides maybe it’s his own fault no one can see him there. He’s not trying hard enough. When you’re invisible you have to work a little harder to be noticed.

So be starts turning somersaults along the track. He discovers that when he’s performing, he becomes visible. But when he stops, he’s gone from sight again. So it’s best to keep doing tricks along the track.  Maybe if he turns enough really good flips the by passers will take note and someone will join him on the track. It works, well, sort of. At first no one seems to care about his attempts at acrobatics, but as he perfects his art, people start to notice. The slowing of traffic and the photos being taken by amused drivers, give him reason to flip even more. Finally, someone has noticed the invisible boy! So he flips more, turning and twisting, jumping and throwing himself in all directions, whatever it takes to keep the growing crowds cheering. But a boy can only turn so many flips before the has to slow down and rest. Then they’re gone again. Seems like all they wanted was the show. When he looks up from his rest he is invisible again.  His aching joints and the dimming of the sky  make it clear to him that he has wandered farther down the track than he thought, and the time has gone by faster than he imagined. He has spent way too much time doing tricks for attention. Eventually the time comes when he just can’t keep up the show. All he can do is keep walking. At the end of the day he’s still an invisible boy walking along the tracks. Disconnected. Invisible. Tired of turning flips. Wondering if anyone out there is able to see him.

Advertisements

Three things you need to know before you walk out the door.

“And we are witness to these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Acts 5:32)

The Apostles were on trial for preaching the gospel. Don’t kid yourself, the day is fast approaching when the church in America will be forbidden to boldly preach the gospel. But the Apostles boldly proclaimed anyway, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only that power can enable us to faithfully proclaim the gospel, not the churchy feel good message of those who would water it down, but the gospel…the one in the Bible, that still calls people to repentance of sin and faith in the crucified, risen and returning Christ.

The Apostles of this century will boldly preach this gospel by the power of the Spirit. In the verse above we see three things any serious disciple needs to know about the Holy Spirit. Go back and read it again. In short form, here are the three things you need to know before you walk out the door.

1. The Holy Spirit has made you a witness. They said, “We are witnesses…” Earlier, Jesus had told the apostles, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses….” The Spirit came upon them and gave them a Holy boldness and power to be witnesses of the good news of Jesus Christ. You may not have seen him raised from the dead, but you are a witness of what Jesus has done in your life. The Holy Spirit will give you power to boldly proclaim your unique gospel message. Not your own Gospel, but your own experience with the good news of Christ. Without that power you cannot be an effective witness.

2. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ. “And so is the Holy Spirit…” The Holy Spirit came alongside the Apostles to confirm their message with powerful signs and wonders. He still does that today. When the gospel witness goes out, the Holy Spirit steps in and demonstrates the reality of Jesus life. Do you expect God to show up in power when you witness? He longs to come alongside and show the truth of the gospel. So how do you get this power in your life?

3. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. “Who has been given to those who obey him.” The Apostles experienced the power of the Spirit as they stepped out in faith and obedience. Friend, if you want to experience the Spirit’s power in your life, get up off your pew and go do something about the great commission. I’ll tell you that is the only way you will really experience his power. Some are wasting away wondering why God isn’t more real to them. Listen,  God will be as real to you as your obedience is to him. No excuses, no games. When you get out there and get about the business of communicating the gospel, God will show up in power.

So before you go out today know this, You are a witness of what Jesus Christ has done for you. Second, The Holy Spirit is also a witness of who who Jesus is. In other words, you give witness and He bears witness. Third, power follows obedience, nothing less. Now go out today and see what God will do when you obey his call.

Texts, Temples and Traditions ? Is that all God’s got?

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”   (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Every religion on earth says basically the same thing: “Here’s the textbook. Here’s the temple. Here are the traditions. See ya at the finish line…if you’re good. Good luck.”

You’re left with a text, a temple, and tradition. Every religion hands you the book of choice and leaves it up to you to make it through. But only the message of Jesus Christ says, “Yes we have rules, we have traditions and beliefs, but there’s more.” The good news of Jesus Christ is that God doesn’t just hand you a book and say, “Good luck, see ya at the finish line”…though many Christians live as if that’s exactly what God did. They’re missing the most crucial element. God offers you his very presence and power.

The good news is that God says, “You can’t make it on your own. If you try you will fail. So I have come to live inside of you and be with you along the way. It wont be you doing the work, but my Holy Spirit within you. Let me change you, and empower you to live the live I have called you to.” You see, when a person repents of their sin, and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are not only forgiven, they are indwelt by God himself.

Preaching the first Christian sermon ever, the Apostle Peter said it like this, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit who makes us truly Christian. He also makes us victorious over the sin and corruption of this world. In the passage at the beginning of this blog we see four powerful truths that help us live victoriously, the way God designed us to. Read it again then see below four life changing truths every believer ought to know.

1. God’s divine power has given us all we need to live godly lives in this present world. This means that we are not called to just be forgiven, then continue wallowing in sin, just consoling ourselves by saying, “God accepts me.” He does accept you but he also expects you to put away the old life and walk powerfully in the new one.  We are called to live godly lives as God’s children. You have all you need to do that if the Spirit of Christ is in you.

2. This power comes through knowing God personally. As you get to know him and rely on him, he imparts his power into your life. But you can’t have God’s power without a personal commitment to Christ. You can’t just believe God is out there somewhere. You have to develop a personal relationship with him. This relationship is with a person, not a system. The person’s name is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to open the way to eternal life, and to give us access to God’s very life on this earth.

3. We access the power of God by obeying his word and believing his promises. As a society we are great at analyzing the promises of God, but are slow to just believe them. You want to know why we don’t see as many miracles as they saw in the Bible? It’s not because God went on vacation. It’s because we have become so self reliant and cynical that we have trouble just trusting  a God who is way beyond us. But when we trust him, miracles happen. I’ve see high school students literally healed of sickness in my class room because they simply believed God.

4. God desires that we live as free people, not as slaves. We were not meant to just be forgiven. We were meant to be victorious. You can overcome that stubborn sin that keeps tangling you up. You can put away the porn addiction, the cutting, the gossip. You can live free of crippling anxiety and depression. You can walk away from the wreck of an immoral life. God’s power is real and available to all who turn from sin to Christ by faith.

Jesus Christ is offering you more than a text, and temple and a tradition. He offers himself to you. Will you trust him? Will you receive him?

Is your church making you lonely?

Are the people you go to church with your friends or do you have to go somewhere else for that?

IMG_19800105_222751

I was reading this morning about friendship. Actually I was reading about church. Okay both. I was reading in the book of Acts about how Peter and John were put on trial for preaching the gospel. After the authorities threatened and released them I read something that surprised and challenged me. Read this:

“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” (Acts 4:43 e.s.v.)

What struck me was that the text didn’t say, “they went to their church” but “they went to their friends.” Now of course it was their church, but Luke, the writer used the word, “Friends” to describe the church. Peter and John were the Apostles, the leaders, but when they found themselves in trouble they saw the church as their friends. I was told in seminary, “You can’t be friends with your congregation.” Tell that to the Apostles. In the early days of this fledgling church, they saw themselves as friends. Perhaps I read to much into one verse. But the point is still valid. If any place ought to be considered a haven for friendship, it’s the church. But is it?

IMG_19800106_165112

 

Who are your friends? As a pastor my calling is to help initiate friendships between God and people and to help people live in true friendship with each other. I know. I know. If I was truly spiritual I would use words like fellowship and community. But sometimes you just have to kick off your theological shoes, sit back and get real. I think we church folk use words like the aforementioned, as a covering. We want a sanctified way to meet a basic need that all human beings have and that is the need for friendship. We think we have to use religious jargon or it’s not of God. Funny creatures we are. The fact is God made us for friendship. The first thing God ever said was “not good” was for humans to be alone. News flash, he didn’t create eve, just so Adam could have sex and populate the earth. He made her for friendship. Abraham’s faith resulted in him being called “the friend of God.” Jesus himself said to his disciples, “I have called you friends.” Whew! Now that I’ve given a Biblical precedent, we sanctimonious folk can give it a rest and talk about being friends without feeling unspiritual. That’s important these days because in our society we have traded in friendship for a screen. We actually think a friend is something you add to a Facebook. It’s more of a status symbol than a relationship. Some of the loneliest people in the world have over 1000 friends in social media. Is a friend really someone you stuff away in a data base ? Is a friend just a name and a photo that you can unfriend the moment they become inconvenient. Despite our addiction to social media we are becoming the loneliest culture in history. Don’t believe me? Just go on your Facebook and count the number of people who have posted something like this: “I know no one reads my page so here’s a test…..” In other words, “I’m lonely! Somebody please validate me.”

Niger Day 7 Sand Dunes (3 of 19)

 

You would think that in the church, where we love to say, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” That we would be all about friendship. But sometimes we’re not. As I said earlier, we use safe words, like “Fellowship” and “Community” which once meant deep connection and friendship, but now just mean a church activity to help us get more people. The only problem is that when we get them in we quickly push them into their own corner of the church and go looking for another one. Our goal is to fill an empty building, but what good is a full building with empty occupants?  Is the church meant to be a group of strangers who have no real connection to each other beyond a common set of beliefs? I’ve been a pastor for about 25 years or so and after extensive personal research I have concluded that one of the loneliest places in America is the local church. In our desire to become relevant we have become shallow. In our desire to become progressive we have become apathetic. We know how to be tolerant, but we don’t have a clue about how to love our neighbor. In our desire to affirm individuality we have forgotten how to stand together. We corral a group of people into one place, teach them to repeat a well crafted prayer, and recite a cool mission statement, then send them home alone, hoping they come back next week for another round of fellowship. The fact is we’re all afraid to be true friends. Why? Because unlike shallow fellowships and surface tolerance, true friendship hurts. It struggles. It sometimes bleeds on the floor making a mess of the church carpet. We’ve forgotten that our Lord showed us the kind of friendship he called us to when he said to his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Let me ask you again: Who are your friends? I don’t want to know who you added to Facebook last week. I want to know who has your back? Who calls you late a night to make sure you arrived home safe from along drive? Who sits beside you in the emergency room? Who do you hang out with because you just want to ? Who loves you even when you act like a complete jerk and do something really stupid. Are those people in your church or do you have to go somewhere else to find that?

P1070664

I was told in Seminary, “You can’t be friends with your church members.” Then I was told as a parent, “You can’t be friends with your children.” Then I was told as a teacher, “You can’t be friends with your students.” I understand the rationale behind these statements, though I don’t completely agree with them. But sometimes, as a pastor, teacher, and parent I want to scream out,”who the heck can I be friends with?” I need more than names on a screen. I need connection. I need to know there is someone out there, in addition to God, who sees me for who I am and loves me anyway. I need to know there is someone out there who lays down their life for me, and allows me to do the same for them. I need somebody who can pray with me, cry with me, laugh at me, and even confront me when necessary. I don’t need polite, hyper spiritual platitudes from plastic saints. I need someone who can fail, and who can see me fail and help me get it back together. I need friends in church and outside the church, real ones who wont unfriend me when I become inconvenient.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

I think the church in America will experience true renewal when we stop being hyper-tolerant social zombies hiding in our cell phones and start being real live human beings who lay down our lives daily for each other the way Jesus showed us when he walked this earth. I have an assignment for you today. Make a list of your true friends, only do it this way, don’t ask yourself who is a friend to you, i.e. who is laying down their life for you, but who’s friend are you? Make a list of people you are giving yourself to help and encourage, especially in your church. Who are you a friend to ?

Help my students perform a miracle!

I have challenged my High school Bible class to put their faith into action by attempting to raise $1000.00 to help support a worthy cause. The cause is a ministry trip being taken by three of our staff people and one student this coming May.
They are going to Uganda to work in a children’s prison…yes you heard it, a children’s prison. These children are all but thrown away in a facility without so much as a bed to sleep on and healthy food to eat. Our team will be going there to minister through a mission organization called, “Sixty feet” who ministers to many places like these. You can check out the organization on the web.
My students want to help out, although they are not able to go. They want to do what they can to raise part of the funding for the mission.IMG_20140126_034102

They have three weeks to raise the money.

uganda childrens prison

This is a photo of the sleeping area of the prison. Thirty eight children sleep here on the floor. No blankets or pillows. But the work of sixty feet and of our staff who are going to help, this can change.

 

Now for some practical information:
1. Where do you teach? The school is called Oakdale Christian Academy. It is a small Free Methodist Boarding school, located in the mountains of Eastern Ky. I’ve been ministering in this area for about 25 years. I’m a pastor, teacher, and Youth Camp Pastor. You can look up Oakdale on the web (Oakdale Christian Academy.org)oakdale sign
2. How do we donate? Send checks to : Erin Cook c/co Oakdale Christian Academy 5801 Beattyville rd. Jackson, Ky, 41339 Please write on the memo line “Bible Class Project” (Erin is the leader of the team. She and Kathy have served there in Uganda before, for several months. They are quite experienced in this ministry.)

60Feet_banner1
3. When is the deadline? All funds need to be in by April 24th.
If you have any other questions leave a comment or email me at mdriskill48@gmail.com

IMAG0121

Thanks for your help. Pastor Mark

The enemy within?

I have to write something today that’s a bit difficult to write. It’s  a hard message to all of us who profess the name of Jesus Christ, particularly those in the community in which I live. In the twenty five years my family and I have ministered here we’ve prayed and worked together with the churches of Breathitt County for the cause of the Gospel. (No we’re not leaving) Many in our county have worked and prayed for years to see a move of God that would transform our community. Our county has some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. I count it an honor to serve beside Pastors who truly love the word of God and preach it faithfully. They love the church and the gospel. Within those churches I see some of the greatest saints of God, of all ages seeking to serve him daily. With such a great community of faith you would think the churches would be bursting at the seams. But they’re not. Despite all the revivals, concerts, youth events and food giveaways we just don’t seem to be able to achieve the breakthrough that so many of us have longed for. We pray for revival. Hope for revival. But where is it? It can’t be that God is no longer interested in saving souls. Because He never grows weary. His love for the lost is boundless. Inexhaustible. We can’t blame the people outside the church. They aren’t more lost than other generations. The problem is we have an enemy that undercuts the gospel whenever it starts to go forward in our community. We all know that Satan is the great enemy of the gospel. No surprise there. But friends, here’s the hard part. We have an even more formidable opponent than the devil himself. As the old saying goes, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.” I fear that the greatest enemy of the gospel in Breathitt County is not outside the walls of the church, but inside. I say this with sadness because I love Breathitt County and the church, and because I know that I have often been an enemy of the gospel without even knowing it. So I write this to myself as well. Let me be more specific.

First I want to say that the problem on the inside is not so much doctrinal. Our churches are pretty solid in the basics of the faith, even with all the minor differences and nuances. The problem isn’t economic. It doesn’t take more more money or better stuff to bring revival. So what is it that keeps the church in Breathitt County from revival? Simply put the problem is power and control. I’ve noticed, over the years, a pattern. Whenever a church begins to start reaching the lost, it grows and begins to bear fruit, but suddenly it all stops and the church is torn apart. Why? Is it opposition from the outside? No. What consistently happens is an implosion from the inside. This implosion usually occurs for one simple reason. Power and control.

A handful of people in the church, who are used to being in control of things, rise up against whoever is bringing in the lost, whether it be a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, or just a member who loves people. They criticize, accuse and complain until the person who was making a difference leaves and the church is fragmented…again. Your church has either been through this or is going through it now. I’ve seen how ugly this can be first hand. I’ve also seen how ugly I can be when I’m the one so full of his own ambition that I’ve hurt the gospel when I thought I was helping it. You see that’s the thing isn’t it? We can get into a situation where we become so sure of our own ideas, and so committed to holding our own position that we actually think we’re helping the gospel, when all we’re really doing is protecting our turf. This kills churches and it dishonors Christ, who gave himself up for us all.

In my 25 years here, I’ve seen this stronghold of power and control in my own ministry and in the ministries of others in our community. We have to understand that as the churches of a community we are responsible for more than our own congregations, and certainly for more than our own self interests. Too many people in our community have simply given up on church because they came looking for God and found only people fighting for power. How many good pastors have been beaten up because all those new saved people were getting more attention than the two or three who used to be in the spotlight? How many new Christians have limped away from church because someone resented them for getting too involved? How many churches have been torn apart because a pastor wanted to be a celebrity instead of a servant? This desire for power and control can happen to all of us can’t it? It’s happened to me and it’s happened to you. Even now I know of churches where those who are doing the work of the gospel are being crucified by those who want to protect their own interests. The church is being assaulted from the inside by the stronghold of power and control. Paul warned those who destroy the work of God:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” (I Cor. 3:16-27)

In this passage Paul is saying that the church is God’s temple and you are part of it, if you destroy God’s temple you are assaulting something Holy, and God will deal with you severely. He was warning those who threatened to tear apart the Corinthian church over self interest. If we are to have revival we must tear down the stronghold of power and control, which has put a choke hold on the church for way too long. If your church has changed several pastors in just a few years, you may be under the stronghold. If you have one family or group that makes all the decisions for the church, you may have a stronghold  of power and control. If you have a long list of people who left the church without telling you why, you may have a stronghold of power and control. If you are afraid to be involved in your church because someone’s toes are in the way, you may have a stronghold of power and control. If you are really mad at me right now, you may have a stronghold of power and control. Finally, if you’re thinking, “I wish so and so would read this.” yep, you guessed it. It may be them…or it may be you.

So how do you overcome the stronghold of power and control? By practicing humility and self sacrifice. You overcome this by serving one another, not leaving one another. Leaving the church is not the answer. That’s the coward’s way out. It’s easier to run away than stay and pray. I should know, I have been the coward at times. We must stand together for the soul of the church and the cause of Christ. We have to fight against the stronghold of power and control by getting our eyes on Christ and giving up our own selfish ambitions. We also need to deal with those who are strangling our churches. You know who they are. They only see the church for what they can get personally out of it. In love and boldness you need to stand up against them. Stop handing the church over to those who just want to use it. If you pastor is doing the work of the gospel stand beside your shepherd, pray for them, encourage them and yes defend them. Finally, make sure that you are acting as a servant to your church, and not a ruler. Even as a leader you are called to serve others.

Church, let us work and pray for revival by putting away our need to protect our interests, and make it our chief interest to preach the gospel. Then the world will know that we meant it last Sunday when we sang, “He lives.”

(disclaimer: No, I’m not having trouble in my church. This isn’t a reaction to anything like that. I have a great relationship with my family of faith. I have a heart for revival in this county and I write this purely out of that desire.)