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 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.)

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


Thanks for your help. Pastor Mark


What happened to Chislev?

What were you praying about in December 2014? How about November? October? This was my reflection this morning. I was reading in Nehemiah chapter 2 and was mildly stunned. I realized that He had prayed for an opportunity to approach the King of Persia and ask for permission to go back to Jerusalem and begin a massive restoration project. That was in Chapter 1. That prayer took place in the Hebrew month of Chislev (November/ December). Then on reading Chapter 2, I see that the conversation he had prayed about having with the king din’t even occur until about four or five months later, in the month of Nisan (March/April).

So Nehemiah began praying for an open door to the king in about November, and although he was in the kings presence every day, the actual conversation never took place until about four months later. Even then, the conversation was initiated, not by Nehemiah, but by the King himself. I could spend a great deal of time writing about such things as providence, God’s timing, etc. but I’m thinking in a slightly different direction today.

As I reflected on the four month span between the two events I was prompted to look back into my poorly organized prayer journal to try to see what I was praying about four months ago and what’s going on right now. In some cases I was encouraged to see what God had done over the last quarter in my life, but I was also a bit embarrassed by the prayers I had prayed, ideas I had written down, and plans I had made, many of which I have forgotten about. So much was lost between Chislev and Nisan. Whew! I’ll take another slice of that humble pie, with a scoop of ice cream please. To keep this brief let me just throw out some conclusions.

1. Journaling is a great idea if for no other reason than it helps me remember things.

2. Nehemiah didn’t have a list of ideas. He had one burning desire. Hard to forget something that grips your heart. Pray, not for ideas, but for passions, burdens, deep desires.

3. I need to clean out the closet of my million ideas and see which ones are truly from God, and toss out the ones that aren’t.

4. Just because you forget, doesn’t mean God does. Some of those forgotten prayers were answered anyway. Others are still before the throne. Keep praying.

So I’ve gone over the last few months and begun to ask the Lord to help me do some spring cleaning in my heart, mind and calendar. Time to seek the Lord for a fresh vision for these warmer days, and to dust off forgotten plans and just see what doors will open in Nisan.

Getting Physical


“I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
How do you offer your body as a living sacrifice to God? I find it interesting that Paul didn’t say, “offer your spirit”. Offering your spirit would be too abstract, too theoretical. Anyone can give themselves to God in an abstract way. But he said, offer your bodies to God. That’s tangible, active, sensory. This is much more demanding than simply closing your eyes and giving God sentimental feelings. Giving your body as a living sacrifice is physical. Too much so called religious devotion never makes it outside the mind and heart. Our spiritual decisions and intentions bounce around in the subconscious until the feeling goes away, but nothing actually happens out in the world where it’s needed the most. Faith isn’t faith until you get your body involved. Abraham didn’t just ponder a vision for the land of Canaan. He started packing and got walking. The Spirit is not calling you to a feeling, but to a step of faith. Don’t just sit there pining away about your love for God. Do something! –that is your spiritual act of worship.


Mark 15:6-15

“Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner…” v. 6

“So I get to be the carrot on the stick, eh?” Barabbas knew what this game was all about. He had seen it every year. “He stands there on his perch above those groveling puppies and tosses them a bone from the dungeon to keep them quiet.” The prisoner stabbed the guards a thousand times with his eyes while they walked him out of that rat hole.  He had to shield his eyes from the first sun he’d seen in days. The muffle of the gathering crowds blasted away a month of silence from his consciousness. “Look at them, like a bunch of hungry chickens at feeding time. Pathetic fools.”

Three men stood together waiting for a decision to be made. “Why don’t they just dispense with the formalities and get this over with?” He snarled. Hate filled him to overflowing and poured out in all directions. It washed over the crowd of puppets below, who would say or do anything to keep the breadcrumbs coming off the table. “If they put up with this Pilate, they deserve him!” Then it washed over the soldiers. “Prancing around with swords and spears spouting off about strength and honor. Cowards in armor, they are.” Then it splashed onto the religious leaders, buzzing in and out of the crowds like bees. “The only god they have is jingling in their purses.” But the tidal wave of his hostility crashed on the head of Pilate. “Our benevolent Governor, Pilate, one of Rome’s finest! Ha!” Barabbas greatest ambition was to “be the one who plunged the first dagger into that man’s pompous flesh, and rip open that sack of dung he calls a heart!” Then he glared across the pavement, just to the left of the Governor. “Who is that poor sap? Looks like the good governor can’t decide which carrot to throw”

Barabbas took a break from the circus around him to “study the competition.” Just to the left of the governor stood Yeshua of Nazareth. “What have we here?” he thought to himself. Yeshua stood quietly, hands and feet bound in the same fashion as Barabbas. His face was slightly swollen, blackish red fist prints decorated his cheek bones. Blood crept out the corner of one eyebrow, mingling with sweat and grime and traced the outside of his temple. “Looks like his troubles have just begun.” Barabbas thought to himself. Looking a little closer he began to recognize the man behind the blood and bruises. He heard someone say, “The Rabbi from Nazareth.” Barabbas had seen this man before. “I’m a dead man for sure.” He told himself. “There’s no way they’ll pick me over this one.”

Barabbas never was much for religion, or religious people. To him it was no less a game than politics. “It’s all to keep people in line!” He often said. He saw through the fake prayers of money hungry Pharisees. It was no different than Pilate’s pompous crowd pleasing prisoner releases and pompous speeches. The right words, the right motions can make people do whatever you want. But still he admired this Yeshua. Barabbas had heard him teach before being arrested. This rabbi seemed to at least believe his own words, unlike the others who used God to get people to follow them. “If there is a God, this guy knows him!” Yeshua seemed of a different stripe than the rest. Standing there, He looked more like a King, even a god, than a criminal. There was a serene sadness about him. What struck Barabbas the most was that this Yeshua seemed to be the only person in this whole circus who wasn’t thinking about himself.

“This is it.” He thought. “No way they’ll pick me.” He looked down at the religious leaders, as they milled about the crowds. He could tell they were doing what they did best. They were working the crowds to sway them. “I’m sunk now.” He thought. Surely they were out to save the good man on the left. “Even religious people know the difference between good and evil, don’t they? They’ll surely pick one of their own to save.”

Silence fell beneath the Governor’s outstretched hand.  “Who shall I release to you? The King of the Jews? or this murderer.” Barabbas could feel his whole life crashing down on his shoulders. He knew this was it. Once the leaders got the crowds on their side, they would save their King, and Barabbas would be killed. “This is one decision they’ll get right for a change.” Barabbas thought. He knew he was guilty, and this Yeshua had been clearly set up by someone who wanted him dead. No sense in hoping for mercy, he knew his fate was sealed.

In the next few seconds the crowds would be calling for Yeshua, then they would crucify Barabbas. “God, if you’re out there, I’m not asking you to get me out of this. Just….Oh what’s the use!” He hung his head and waited for the verdict. “How could I expect God to let this innocent man die in my place? Such a thing would be unthinkable.” What kind of God would let a completely innocent man shed his blood in the place of a clearly evil man? What kind of God would allow such a ridiculous turnaround of justice?

Then the chanting started…

Hours later, Barabbas sat on a lonely boulder staring at three crosses in the distance. All he could do was let it all wash over him. Was he a lucky fool in a display of religious stupidity, or had God just done the unthinkable? Was it dumb luck or something more? Had he merely escaped death or had something more profound just taken place?

Was Yeshua a poor idealist, or did he look like a king for a reason? “If he was a king, I’d sure like to live in his country. He would be a king worth following.” Barabbas snickered at himself for such silly thoughts, got up from the rock and started walking, not sure where road would take him.  He simply knew his life would be a bit different now, though he wasn’t sure how.

Just stay awake and watch.

Mark 14:32-42

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” V. 34

Sometimes you can feel the darkness. The black night sky pours out thick oil on your shoulders, smothering any semblance of daylight. Andrew dug in just far enough from the master to hear his faint groaning’s mingled with haunting night sounds, harmonizing with an eerie sense of foreboding.  There’s a kind of hypnotic effect that comes over a weary soul, in the late hours, blurring the lines between consciousness and sleep. You don’t really know how much is real, and how much is just in your head. This is one of those nights that make you long for something to happen, good or bad. You’d just about welcome anything at all to shake you out of this limbo.

Andrew wanted to stay awake but his eyelids fused into iron with every creeping moment, and his head was drunk on darkness and firelight. To stay awake he tried to nail his eyelids on his master who was in prayer a few yards, seemed like miles, away.

In the past three years he had seen Jesus angry, sad, joyful, frustrated, and even a bit perplexed on occasions, but never like this.  It was a bit unnerving to see him shaking so violently. His whole body seemed to quake and totter constantly on the edge of an abyss. A momentary flash of firelight revealed what looked like a foreboding stream of blood priming Jesus ashen face.

Andrew found himself running to Jesus with a long sword slashing and cutting away at a fierce dark beast, which was jabbing a makeshift crown full of thorns onto the Rabbi’s head. Then there were bats with red mocking eyes coming at him from all sides, spitting fire at Jesus. Andrew was swinging wildly, but then his sword grew heavy. He tried to run, but couldn’t move his legs. Another dark beast shoved a spear at the master, piercing his rib cage. Andrew tried to fight but was too weak to lift his hands. He screamed out echoes of terror into the night sky.

The next thing he felt was a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. “Wake up! Andrew! Wake up. You’re dreaming! The master is coming.”

Trying to rub the embarrassment from his eyes, Andrew stood up with the others, letting the cold night air resuscitate him.

“Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus’ words cut into Andrew’s heart leaving him fumbling in vain for a response. His weary frame dipped back against a tree watching Jesus enter the ring for another round.

Seeing his teacher rock back and forth with the world perched on his shoulders, its crushing claws sinking deep, Andrew wanted to do something. But what do you do when the world seems to be suffocating in darkness, and even God seems powerless to stop it? He decided in such a time all he could do was try to stay awake, and keep his gaze riveted on his teacher, no matter how hard it became to see him. There must be some battles that only Jesus can fight. So  Andrew kept telling himself, “Stay awake and watch. Just stay awake and watch. Just stay awake and watch.  Just stay awake….”

Gideon the water man.

Mark 14:12-16   

“Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.” v. 13 

Gideon Ben Joshua rose earlier than usual this morning. The Passover was drawing near and he had much to do before the sun burned hot.  He held his breath and braced himself for the cold splash of water in his time etched face.  Pulling on his tunic and sandals he dashed out to the well to begin his routine. Down the sleepy street he could hear familiar sounds of life emerging in downtown Jerusalem.

The old man kind of liked this time of the morning. The faint morning glow pushing the shadows back into the corners of buildings, washing the horizon with shafts of gold. If he stood in just the right place, at the right time he could see the sun resting, briefly between two mountain peaks, like a fine jewel in a magnificent ring. Looking up to the purple and orange skyline he breathed a prayer, “That’s a nice ring you’re wearing sir!” Then he grinned as he muttered, “Better not let the Pharisees hear me talk to you like that. They’ll have a fit.”

He was as simple man with a simple life. He spent his days rushing about the city carrying water for merchants, and at times for the temple. He lived alone, since his loving Rachel died six years ago. But he was surrounded by adoring children, and grand children. If you want to get an earful, just ask him about them. But be forewarned, he will talk incessantly, so pack a lunch. His five children are all the most successful people in the world, and all of this fifteen grandchildren are destined for greatness because of their exceptional gifts and abilities. Gideon is no one to overstate such things. He just tells it in grand style to make sure you understand just how wonderful they really are. He looked forward to Passover every year. His little house would be bursting at the seams with food, music, prayers and great joy.

Gideon Ben Joshua was a water bearer, if that’s even a career. If not, it should be, because he is known all over the neighborhood for making sure everyone has enough. He never expected to account for much in the grand scheme of things. I mean how can you expect much when all you do is carry water. Well, he is kind of famous for his arm wrestling ability. He has a bit of a reputation for putting some of the younger men to shame now and then. But everybody loves Gideon.

Sometimes, though, it kind of bothers him. He wonders if he could have made a bigger difference in the world. Sometimes, while he’s rushing through town he looks up at the temple, or the Palace and wonders what it would be like to really be somebody. Then after a long day, he trudges home only to be stampeded by adoring grandchildren. He falls to the ground laughing with them, and thinks, ” I’m the wealthiest man in Jerusalem!”

Oh, there is that other thing. Sometimes he rents his upstairs room out to people during the Passover. It’s not much, but it has plenty of space, which is difficult to find in this town.

Filling up his first jar of the morning he remembers. “I’ve got to meet those disciples today.” That Rabbi Yeshua asked for it awhile back. He had such kindness in his eyes. Gideon remembered feeling a warm strength radiating from this man. He felt his soul strangely embraced by every word the Rabbi spoke. When Yeshua asked how much it would cost, Gideon just laughed in his great big voice, ” For you! consider it my Passover gift!”

The sun had climbed up out of the mountains and the city was quickly springing to life. Mills grinding, animals complaining, children celebrating consciousness. Jerusalem was waking up fast, and Gideon had to get moving to beat the rush. Hoisting a massive water jar on his cracking but powerful shoulders, he headed down the street.” Gideon Ben Joshua the water carrier may not ever do anything too significant with his life, “but I’m glad to do what I can to help get the water to those who need it.”

” I hope Yeshua likes the room. I hope he has a fine Passover!

I suspect that young rabbi is going to make a big splash some day. Then I can say I knew him when! You just never know about such things.”

Then he chuckled at himself and went singing on his way.

A Bad girl’s coronation.

Mark 14:1-9

“And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” v. 9

The sweaty stench of men was nothing new to her. In her line of work it was pretty familiar. She stood in the back of the room trying not to make eye contact with her more prominent former patrons, as they plied Jesus with inane religious questions. A few of those men knew her very well. Too well. It made her a bit sick to her stomach to think about it. The low rumble of conversation combined with the crunching and slurping of bread and fruit was always intimidating to her. She knew what most of these men thought of her, and how easily her presence here could result in her death. But today she was willing to die if need be. As long as she could remember she had come into rooms like this one, looking for men and their money. She knew how to flirt and giggle, playing whatever game was needed to bring the right man home for the evening. To her, men were all the same. You just have to know when to smile, laugh at bad jokes, and how to brush a fragrant hand against the shoulder without being too obvious. Whether you were a soldier, a farmer, or a scribe she knew how to work you down to your last Drachma. But today was different. She had come looking for a man with an entirely different purpose in mind.

Ever since she was kicked out of her home at 13 she has been using men to survive. To her that’s all a man was good for. She had lost years enduring bad men, with their bad jokes and bad breath, just to have enough money to live on. Men had beaten her, raped her, and mocked her in public, threatening to kill her if she talked. The way many of them paraded themselves into the synagogue after sneaking out of her place made her want to vomit. But today she stood in the back of this dusty room looking for the Nazarene. She hadn’t come to flirt, or play games. She had come to honor the first man in 24 years to look at her with real love.

Ever since that violent morning at the temple court yard, life had changed. She had been dragged out bed while her lover was rushed out the back door with his religious robe in hand, and she was slammed to the pavement. Bracing herself for a barrage of stones, she was shocked by the silence of guilty men walking away, dropping stones to the ground. Then the words came, like a warm breeze after a storm, wiping the clouds away. “No one condemns you and neither do I. Go now, and leave this life behind.” Then through her blood matted hair she looked into the eyes of divine love.

Now, standing at the Leper’s house with the only possession she had left, a jar of perfume, she moved toward him. Ignoring the crude whispers, and razor sharp stares that sought to cut her to pieces, but this time fell powerless at her feet. With each step toward him she felt less like a commodity and more like a royal princess, as her new king crowned her heart with his radiant love. With the gentle snap of the jar all the pain of years crackled into pieces, and a torrent of emotion burst from her soul.

The room fell silent as she poured out her gratitude upon his head. Her tears splattered on his feet, and she hurried to clean them with her hair. For that moment there was no one in the room but her and the redeemer. Every second in  his presence filled her soul with unexplainable power. Her eyes filled like warm cups of joy and she was oblivious to the mocking sounds of pompous hypocrites in the background, criticizing her. For a second, she recognized one very familiar voice, a voice she had heard on many a night, saying “Why this waste…” she ignored the rest. Nothing given to Jesus  in genuine love is ever wasted.

Then, something happened that she truly had only experienced one time before. Both times it was Jesus who did it. In all of her life she had never experienced a man defending her. Neither her abusive father, nor her brothers, and certainly not the company that surrounded her. To them she had only been a toy, or pawn in some game. But now the one who had saved her in the court yard, sought to crown her in the Leper’s house.

“Leave her alone!” He thundered, eyes glaring with holy fire, daring anyone to speak. A powerful holy silence fell on that place sending demonic voices screaming into the abyss. Then he went on with her coronation. “And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

She turned with royal grace, head held high, once wounded eyes now flashing with the power of redeeming love. Then she floated past stunned faces, fumbling for their dignity, some broken hearted, others sinking deeper into darkness. The old shell of her life lie on the floor like the shards of a perfume jar, and the stench of shame was replaced by the fragrance of peace. Another princess was added to the kingdom. That my friends is what the gospel is all about.