God isn’t as religious as you think He is.

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“It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

This statement might just be among the most anti-religious things Jesus is recorded to have ever said. In one sentence, Our Lord turns over the tables of our religious presumptions and drives out the money changers of self made religion.
The words of Jesus here, must have made every Pharisee in town feel squeamish. He says something here that flies in the face of two prevalent forms of religion. In one joyful declaration or Lord knocked the legs out from under what I call, “The probationary gospel” and the “Cash and Carry Gospel.” Both of these are rampant in our culture today, and are as deadly to the soul today as they were in Jesus day.
1. “The probationary gospel” is a lie that portrays our heavenly father as nothing more than an irate deity, fuming over us with his bony finger poised over the Hell-button, just waiting for an excuse to drop the trap door open and send us screaming into the abyss. It’s a probationary gospel because it is entirely dependent on our good behavior. Imagine God saying to us at conversion, “Alright you little sinner. You’re forgiven for now, but if you don’t keep it clean you’re going back to the darkness.” It’s a fake gospel that says, ” If you die having even the smallest sin unconfessed, you’re going to hell !” Really? A salvation that is only as strong as my ability to confess? A gospel that depends on my goodness is no gospel at all.
Jesus says, “It’s your father’s good pleasure…” Your father was and is pleased to give you the kingdom. His salvation is not an act of obligation, but of divine love. If you are saved you are not on probation. You are not under the wrath of God any longer. God is your father and He is pleased to give you his kingdom and everything that comes with it. This leads to the second point.
2. “The cash and carry gospel” otherwise known as the health and wealth gospel. There are many preachers who are selling the gospel short, by making it primarily about money and health and material things. While I have no problem believing that God will meet all our needs and even give an abundance at times, the notion that the kingdom of God is about material things falls short of the message of Jesus.
The Pharisees loved money. If Jesus message had been about wealth and financial gain, they would never have crucified him. They would have flocked to him. I fear today that many preachers would have quite a following of Pharisees had they preached their messages in his day. The gospel is not about making it in this world, but in the next. Jesus said, “Its the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom of God is what is being offered here, not the kingdoms of this world.
The message of the gospel is not about how God can make you wealthy, healthy and successful in this life. Too many people become Christians because someone told them Jesus could improve their lives. While that is certainly true, that is not what makes the gospel good news. The good news is that we have an eternal kingdom that never fades, an eternal hope with greater riches than this world could ever offer.
Our lives are hidden with Christ (Col. 3). When prosperity preachers offer us mansions and cars and money they are thinking too small. If you read the verses that follow Luke 12:32 you will see Jesus inviting us to strip ourselves of any concern for material things and go after the real riches found in him. Paul tells us that “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink (i.e. material things) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
Friends, Jesus came preaching a message that is liberating to the soul! It liberates us from legalism and materialism, among other things. He liberates us by showing us a father in heaven who is not nearly as religious as we are. God is not religious, God is love. He is Holy love. He calls us to free ourselves from the bondage of sin and self, by faith in him. When we turn to Him by faith we find a heavenly father who takes great pleasure in giving us a kingdom that never fades, never falls, never dies. He’s not inviting you to the burden of religious duty or the greater burden of materialism. But to the freedom and joy we were created for. This comes only through turning by faith and surrender to Jesus Christ, who died to open the door for us.

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53 and counting….

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I turned 53 yesterday. That puts me two years away from a senior citizen’s discount. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that in seven years. Lord willing, I’ll be sixty. Say what? After 50 birthdays start to become more and more important. (insert chuckle here)

It’s kinda weird to celebrate 53 years, partly because I still feel much younger than that. Even though it takes me longer to get up out of a chair, and I’m getting used to the fact that I can’t read anything without whipping out my reading glasses, I still feel pretty young. I still have lots of energy…most of the time, but I go to bed much earlier now than I did just a few years ago. But whatever delusions of immortality I had in my twenties are long gone. I know that one day this earthly life will come to an end, and statistically, that could happen in just a couple of decades, despite my hopes of living to be a hundred ( I think that would be very cool but only God knows about that.).

It’s kinda creepy to think about your life ending, but at my age I can’t help but at least tip my hat in acknowledgement to that weird guy with a sickle, standing in the shadows. I know one day he’s gonna come knocking and escort me to glory. Fortunately, because of Jesus the trip will be a short passage into life. I think if it weren’t for Jesus I would be in great fear of death. How sad it would be to think that my life was just an existence until death. But I have great hope that this short life is just  a warm up for eternity.

However, despite my great hope, I still feel some apprehension about the future. I’m done looking back with regret about the past. I’ve looked back and seen God’s hand on my life and for that I give thanks. God has blessed me beyond my expectations. But I can see also that I wasted a lot of my life being way too self concerned. God has graciously worked in and through this little clay pot of a life despite some basic mistakes. Here’s a short list of things I could get really depressed about if I tried.

  1. Too much talking. Too little listening.
  2. Too many hours spent on computer games. Too little on relationships.
  3. Too much time looking for affirmation. Too little time giving it.
  4. Too much self preservation. Too little self sacrifice.
  5. Too much concern for appearances. Too little concern for substance.
  6. Too much convenience. Too little perseverance.
  7. Too much fear. too little faith.
  8. Too much self. Too little others.
  9. Too much resentment. Too little forgiveness.
  10. Too much flesh. Too little Spirit.

I’ve spent enough time thinking about previous years and how I could have given more and loved better. I wept. I’ve confessed. I’ve mended fences…or at least tried, some refuse to mend. But as the Bible says, “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” I’m done trying to fix yesterday. It’s time to move ahead into the life God has for me and my loved ones.

The great news of the Gospel is that God is always calling us forward to new life. I’m ready to move into the gift of life with a new zeal for God and His kingdom. In my short 53 years, despite all the ups and downs, one thing has remained. Jesus Christ, my wonderful savior has held my hand all the way. His love is greater than my regrets, stronger than my fears, and more powerful than my insecurities.

He has been unswervingly faithful and undeniably capable in all situations.My king has kept me in His nail scarred hands even in my worst moments. He has given me a wonderful family, amazing friends and tremendous opportunities. The great news is that no matter how long I live on this planet the best is always yet to come. Quite frankly, I have no intention of winding down at this point. My God has given me a great gospel to preach and a great life to live and I feel that I’m just now getting started. I want the second half to be greater than the first. I want my life to burst with God’s glory so brightly that you’ll have to wear sunglasses to my funeral!

If you have read this far, thank you for indulging me. I want to encourage you to live your life completely for Jesus Christ. He is the very ground of your existence. He is the reason for every breath you breathe. He alone can give meaning and lasting purpose to your life. In fact, He alone can give you your life. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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?

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.

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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.)

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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

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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.)